Ryanair: ‘EC will find Brussels deal illegal’

RYANAIR has admitted its deals with state-owned
airports will be open to attack after conceding the European Commission will
find “substantial” parts of its agreement with Brussels Charleroi Airport

In an unusual show of weakness, Ryanair declared it
will pull out of its Belgium base if the EC finds against the deal and warned
it could threaten the whole ethos of low-fares travel.

Ryanair receives a large discount on landing fees and
marketing cash from the airport and the Walloon government, but the EC is
likely to rule this contravenes state aid rules after a complaint from the main
Brussels airport. 

This could lead to similar complaints from private
airports or competitor airlines about Ryanair’s deals with its 19 French public
airports and Italian, Spanish and German airports.

A spokesman said: “It leaves us open to me-too cases –
we’ll have to wait and see. We’ve seen other airlines keen to challenge
Ryanair’s deals after the Air France case in Strasbourg.”

The carrier said it would appeal against the EC’s
decision and talk to the airport and Walloon government about possibly
privatising Charleroi. If neither works, it will pull out and move to another
privately-owned European airport. 

Ryanair chief Michael O’Leary claimed a negative ruling
could put EasyJet, MyTravelLite and Bmibaby deals in doubt.

“If the EC finds against us it will mean a return to
high fares and less choice as publicly-owned regional and secondary airports
will not be able to compete openly and fairly.”

But independent aviation analyst Chris Tarry

“It may add a few euros to the price but Ryanair can
absorb the initial blow by building its ancillary product range, such as
advertisers on its website.”

The EC refused to comment.


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