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Ryanair appealing Brussels Charleroi decision

Ryanair confirmed that it formally requested the European Court of First Instance in Luxembourg to annul the European Commission’s recent ruling that certain elements of the airline’s arrangements with publicly owned Brussels Charleroi Airport were illegal state aid and thus must be repaid. The Irish carrier always vowed it would appeal the “flawed decision” in the now-famous “Charleroi case” (ATWOnline, Feb. 4). Ryanair’s appeal rests on the argument that the EC failed to apply the Market Economy Investor Principle and ignored factual evidence that the Charleroi agreement resulted from negotiations with several other airports and the deal specifically was offered to other airlines willing to make the same investment in the airport that Ryanair did.

The Commission’s decision “creates a very damaging precedent for underutilized regional airports all over Europe. High-fare airlines like Air France and Alitalia are already using this flawed decision to undermine competition elsewhere in Europe,” Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said. He added that his airline is “confident that this decision will be overturned by the European Court and that the successful partnership between low-fares airlines and regional airports will be vindicated.”

Separately, O’Leary repeated Ryanair’s full-year net profit guidance of around eur215 million ($260.5 million), down 10% on the year-ago net. The carrier will announce results for the fiscal year ended March 31 on June 1. He also reiterated that Ryanair does not plan to introduce a fuel surcharge this year or in 2005 despite a spike in fuel prices.