Ryanair Delighted at EU Court?s Dismissal of Charleroi Case
Ryanair, Europe's largest low fares airline, today (17th Dec) welcomed the European Court of First Instance (CFI) decision to dismiss the EU Commission's flawed 2004 Charleroi case which wrongly claimed that Ryanair's low cost agreement at Charleroi was a subsidy or was State Aid. Today's CFI ruling proves that Ryanair did not receive any subsidy or State Aid from Charleroi or the Walloon region. The CFI's decision is a vindication of Charleroi Airport, which has been transformed from an unused facility in 2001 into a growing profitable airport, with over 2m passengers annually, providing competition and choice to the high cost Brussels Zaventem Airport. It also means the Commission's 2005 "Airport Guideline" which were based on this flawed Charleroi case are now null and void.
Ryanair today called on the European Commission to drop the 8 other State Aid cases that the Commission has brought against similar secondary airports in Alghero, Aarhus, Bratislava, Frankfurt Hahn, Hamburg Lubeck, Pau, Berlin Schonefeld and Tampere and to focus instead on the real and blatant breaches of the state aid rules by Europe's biggest flag carriers, such as the most recent illegal bailout of Alitalia by the Italian Government, and the €500m. state aid by the Austrian Government to Lufthansa as a ‘sweetener' to persuade them to buy Austrian Airlines.
Welcoming today's CFI ruling in Brussels, Ryanair's Michael O'Leary said:
"Ryanair is delighted to have today obtained justice in a four year long case. Charleroi airport has been the model for how small regional and secondary airports around Europe can transform themselves from unused airfields into growing profitable international airports, which are providing regional growth, new jobs, lower fares, competition and choice for millions of European consumers. This baseless complaint was originally brought by Brussels Zaventem Airport in an attempt to block competition from Charleroi Airport, and the EU Commission should have rejected it back in 2003 in the interests of competition and consumers.
"Charleroi Airport has proven over the past six years that their low cost model works. They have built a new low cost terminal, based on the success of their agreement with Ryanair, and now other airlines are serving Charleroi as a result. Charleroi airport has been profitable each year for the past six years, which disproves the Commission's original claim that Charleroi would be loss making for the term of the Ryanair contract.
"Today's decision is great news for Charleroi, competition, consumers and low cost airports across Europe. Ryanair now calls on the EU Commission to drop their other State Aid cases against similar regional and secondary airports (Alghero, Aarhus, Bratislava, Frankfurt Hahn, Hamburg Lubeck, Pau, Berlin Schonefeld and Tampere), most of which have been brought to the Commission by larger competitor airports who are trying to block competition and lower fares.
"Ryanair will be using today's pro-consumer decision by the CFI to call for an early meeting with DG Transport. We believe that now is the time for Ryanair and the EU Commission to build a better working relationship based on a shared objective of "putting consumers first" so that European's largest international airline can work closely with Europe's Transport Commission to promote and develop more low fare flights, more choice and competition, more regional and secondary airports, more jobs, and much more traffic and tourism growth for the benefit of European integration and all of Europe's citizens. Today's decision shows that both the Commission and Ryanair has made mistakes in the past, so it is time for Ryanair and the Commission to stop fighting, and we sincerely hope that the CFI ruling can be the catalyst for Ryanair and the EU Commission to work together to put Europe's consumers first".