Ryanair Says It Is Appealing Italian Antitrust Authority Fine For Not Refunding Customers; Portugal Warns Ryanair Will Face Consequences For Opposing TAP Aid
Ryanair has said that it is appealing a decision by Italy's antitrust authority to fine it €4.2 million for not refunding costumers for flights cancelled after June of 2020 due to the COVID-19 crisis.
"We have instructed our lawyers to appeal this decision," Ryanair said in an e-mailed statement. It said that the airline had acted in full compliance with EU261 requirements and guidelines on passenger rights in the context of the pandemic.
"Customers affected by these cancelled flights have been offered all options in compliance with EU law, including free moves, refunds in the form of cash or vouchers as an additional choice, subject to the passengers acceptance," Ryanair said.
Italy's antitrust regulator said that Ryanair, British airline easyJet and Spain's Volotea had behaved in a "seriously improper manner" by using the pandemic as a motive to cancel flights even after travel restrictions had ended, and by issuing vouchers rather than refunding customers.
The regulator has also fined easyJet and Volotea.
Portugal Warns Ryanair Will Face Consequences For Opposing TAP Aid
In other Ryanair news, Portugal's infrastructure ministry has warned that the airline's relations with Portugal will suffer because of Ryanair's campaign to try to block state aid for struggling Portuguese rival TAP.
"Due to systematic hostile attacks on TAP, Ryanair should not expect an attitude of cooperation," the ministry said in a strongly worded statement after minister Pedro Nuno Santos met Ryanair chief executive Michael O'Leary on Wednesday May 26.
Last week, the EU's second-highest court upheld Ryanair's fight against a €1.2 billion rescue loan TAP received in 2020 from the state, with the European Commission's blessing, on the grounds that the commission failed to justify the huge cash injection.
The commission has said that it is studying the ruling before considering its next steps.
"It is clear to everyone that Ryanair is trying to take advantage of a difficult situation caused by a pandemic to attack a group of European companies of central importance for several (EU) member states," the ministry said.
In an e-mailed statement, O'Leary said that the meeting with Santos was "interesting although pointless," and rejected the minister's accusations.
"We condemn his false claims over recent days that Ryanair is waging a commercial war, when this is called competition...We again call on minister Santos to stop wasting taxpayers' money on TAP," he said.
If Brussels rejects Lisbon's restructuring plan for TAP, which involves a proposed 2,000 job cuts by 2022 and pay cuts of up to 25%, TAP will have to immediately repay the rescue loan, which could lead to its insolvency.
TAP recorded a record €1.2 billion loss last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic, but the ministry said that the airline is "a strategic and structuring investment for Portugal."