Ryanair has lost a fight against state aid granted to rivals including Air France and Sweden's SAS after a top European court said that such schemes are not discriminatory amid the COVID-19 pandemic.
The judgment from the Luxembourg-based General Court is the first to deal with aid measures cleared by the European Commission under easier rules aimed at helping European Union governments prop up companies hit by the health crisis.
The court said that the French and Swedish schemes are in line with the bloc's rules. The airline industry has been one of the hardest-hit by virus-related restrictions and lockdowns imposed by governments worldwide.
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"That aid scheme is appropriate for making good the economic damage caused by the COVID-19 pandemic and does not constitute discrimination," the court said, referring to the French scheme.
For the Swedish scheme, it said, "The scheme at issue is presumed to have been adopted in the interest of the European Union."
Ryanair said that it will appeal to the EU Court of Justice in a process that is likely to take several years.
The company had taken issue with the European Commission for clearing a French scheme allowing airlines to defer certain aeronautical taxes and Sweden's loan guarantee scheme for airlines. Both schemes benefitted their flag carriers.
Ryanair has filed 16 lawsuits against the Commission for allowing state aid to individual airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, Austrian Airlines and TAP, as well as national schemes that mainly benefit flag carriers.
To date, EU competition enforcers have cleared more than €3 trillion to help virus-hit companies across the 27-country bloc.
The cases are T-238/20 Ryanair v Commission and T-259/20 Ryanair v Commission.