European Commission orders Ryanair to repay ‘illegal state aid’

DUBLIN, Ireland – The European Commission has ordered Ryanair to repay more than 300,000 euros ($400,000) provided by a German airport to sustain the Irish budget airline’s business, ruling it amounted to “illegal state aid”.

Ryanair says it plans to appeal Wednesday’s judgment that the airline exploited tiny Leipzig-Altenburg Airport in eastern Germany with a 2010 marketing contract that benefited Ryanair, not the airport.

The judgment concluded that the marketing deal to promote the airport on Ryanair’s websites offered no prospect of returning a profit to the airport “even in the long term.”

Ryanair operated from the airstrip south of Leipzig from 2003 to 2011. During that period, the Dublin-based carrier rapidly expanded its route network across Europe by negotiating hardball contracts with small, disused regional airports.