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EU threat to Ryanair link with Pau

Published on 05/02/2004

5 February 2004

PARIS – Ryanair flights linking Pau, in south west France, with Britain were under threat Thursday after the European Commission said it was considering action to halt public subsidies paid to the carrier by the French town’s airport.

The commission said Thursday it had received a complaint against the subsidies paid to Ryanair by the Pau chamber of commerce and industry (CCI), which manages the airport, the BBC reported. Ryanair said it had been informed by Brussels of the complaint.

 The Irish arline carries some 50,000 passengers between Pau and British airports every year, said Michel Brau, head of the Pau CCI, in an interview with AFP.

On Wednesday, the Commission ruled against similar publicly-funded subsidies paid to Ryanair by airport authorities at Charleroi, in Belgium, which it said amounted to illegal state aid.

The ruling, which also ordered Ryanair to repay part of the subsidies, was widely predicted to open the way for a flood of complaints from rival airlines against the carrier, which receives public subsidies from many other European provincial airports – including Pau.

Last September a French court ruled that publicly funded subsidies paid to the carrier by airport authorities in Strasbourg amounted to illegal competition, notably with Air France who brought the case.

Ryanair, which in December lost its appeal against that judgement, subsequently halted its services to and out of Strasbourg, leading to a plunge in international air passenger traffic through the eastern French city.

Several provincial airports in France, run by local chambers of commerce, have subsidy deals with Ryanair. They argue that the cash aid, which include reduced handling costs and part-funding of promotional campaigns, ultimately benefits the local economy through an expansion in tourism.

Ryanair has said it will appeal Wednesday’s EU ruling on Charleroi.

© Expatica France News

                                                              Subject: France news