Ryanair wins EU court case over Charleroi airport

Ryanair LogoLuxembourg - Ryanair won a court case against the European Commission on Wednesday, meaning the low-cost airline will not have to pay back millions of euros in subsidies that it received from the Belgian state for establishing a base at Charleroi Airport.

Ryanair obtained favourable terms from the Wallonia Region when negotiating its first continental base at Charleroi, in 2000.

These included a 50 per cent discount on landing charges and compensation for any loss of profit arising from subsequent hikes in such charges.

Ryanair later agreed to base between two and four aircraft at Charleroi for a 15-year period in return for an additional 90 per cent discount on the airport's 10-euro handling charge per passenger.

The European Union's executive arm had referred the case to EU judges, arguing that such terms constituted illegal state aid.

But the Court of First Instance in Luxembourg ruled Wednesday that the deal was part of normal economic activity on the part of Wallonia regional authorities.

"The mere fact that that activity is carried out in the public sector does not mean that it can be categorized as the exercise of public authority," judges said.

The commission has two months to decide whether to appeal the decision. (dpa)