Ryanair plane impounded in France in row over illegal subsidies

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Ryanair plane impounded in France in row over illegal subsidies

Aviation authority impounded aircraft at Bordeaux until £450,000 bill was settled





A Ryanair plane







The French civil aviation authority said Ryanair had repeatedly refused to pay back the money.
Photograph: Martin Meissner/AP

Ryanair has been forced to pay the French government €525,000 (£450,000) to release one of its planes after it was impounded at Bordeaux airport in a decade-long legal battle over illegal subsidies.

French officials seized the aircraft on Thursday ahead of a planned flight to Stansted and forced 149 passengers to disembark.

The French civil aviation authority said it was “regrettable that the state was forced” to seize the plane, but that it took the measure because the low-cost airline had repeatedly ignored demands to repay subsidies a regional government handed to Ryanair.

The European commission ruled that about €1m of subsidies paid to Ryanair in return for it providing flights from Angoulême, 80 miles (130km) north-east of Bordeaux, to London between 2008 and 2009 were illegal.

Ryanair was ordered to repay all the money, which the commission said gave the airline an unfair advantage. But the French government said Ryanair had only paid back half the money, so it seized the plane and demanded the balance. The airline paid the bill on Friday.

“It is unfortunate that the state had to take such action, which led to the inevitable inconvenience of the 149 passengers onboard the immobilised plane,” the French civil aviation authority said. “Those passengers were able to eventually reach their destination later that evening on another Ryanair plane, but with a five-hour delay.”

Ryanair did not respond to requests for comment.

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