Ryanair abandons Marseille base from Tuesday

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Low-cost European airline Ryanair abandons its base at the French airport of Marseille on Tuesday in protest after a local court sanctioned its employment practices.

Ryanair announced in October it would close its hub in the southern French city where it began operating in 2006, because French prosecutors refused to drop a case against it for hiring workers on Irish contracts.

"From Tuesday, no more Ryanair planes will spend the night" at Marseille, said an airport official, who asked not to be named. The company had in October announced Tuesday as the date of the base's closure.

The company said it is cutting 13 routes from Marseille to Europe and Morocco, served by four aircraft based in Marseille. It will continue to run 10 routes to and from the airport by planes based elsewhere.

Local prosecutors accused Ryanair of illegal working practices because the Irish airline employed workers in Marseille under Irish contracts instead of French ones, to save on payroll taxes.

Ryanair argued the company's aircraft counted as Irish territory and that crew working on them were effectively employed in Ireland.

The airport said the closure of the Ryanair operations will mean 50,000 fewer passengers use the airport each month and local businesses fear hundreds of jobs will be lost.

A Ryanair spokesman said some Marseille personnel would be transferred to work for it in Italy, Spain and Lithuania.

© 2011 AFP

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