Ryanair wins latest challenge against aid to COVID-hit airlines

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BRUSSELS (Reuters) -Ryanair on Wednesday won its challenge to an EU decision allowing Italian aid to pandemic-hit airlines, the second such victory in two weeks for Europe’s largest budget carrier.

The Irish airline has filed more than a dozen lawsuits against billions of euros in what it said was unfair state aid granted to airlines across the 27-country European Union and approved by the European Commission.

The EU’s Luxembourg-based General Court on Wednesday annulled the Commission’s clearing of the Italian state aid, saying the competition enforcer had failed to explain in a clear and unequivocal way why it had not opened an investigation and had given its approval.

In October 2020, after the COVID-19 pandemic had brought travel to a virtual standstill, Italy had gained the Commission’s approval for 130 million euros ($143.1 million) in subsidies to certain airlines holding an Italian licence.

Ryanair welcomed the court’s ruling.

“Today’s judgment confirms that the Commission must act as a guardian of the level playing field in air transport and cannot sign-off discriminatory state aid under political pressure by national governments,” a Ryanair spokesperson said. 

Two weeks ago the same court ruled in Ryanair’s favour in cases involving pandemic state aid measures for competitors Lufthansa (LHAG.DE) and SAS (SAS.ST).


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