EU tells airports and budget carriers to return state aid
Several low-cost carriers, including Ryanair and Lufthansa’s budget unit Germanwings, as well as two airports have been ordered by European Union regulators to pay back millions of euros in illegal subsidies.
The rulings are part of a series of investigations carried out over a number of years into deals between budget airlines, secondary airports and local and regional authorities. Such deals contributed to the explosive growth of low-cost carriers in Europe.
In one case, Zweibruecken Airport in Germany was ordered to recover €1.2 million in illegal marketing and airport services deals from Germanwings, €500,000 from Ryanair and €200,000 from TUIFly.
The airport must also pay back €47 million in investment and operating aid to German authorities because it had an unfair advantage over competitors. Zweibruecken is currently negotiating insolvency. Ryanair said it would appeal. It stopped flying to Zweibruecken in 2009 after carrying only 50,000 passengers.
The commission also targeted Alghero airport on Sardinia, Italy, and Charleroi in Belgium, and launched an investigation into Belgium paying millions in subsidies to Brussels Airlines, which is 45% owned by Lufthansa. But it cleared other cases involving Sweden’s Västerås Airport (see related story) and Saarbrücken and Frankfurt Hahn airports.
[pictured: Zweibruecken Airport]