Ryanair Holdings Plc lost three more court challenges to Covid-19 bailouts for rival carriers after a European Union court said support for Finnair Oyj and SAS AB didn’t break the bloc’s state-aid rules.
In two cases concerning SAS, the EU General Court ruled Wednesday that Swedish and Danish aid “does not amount to unlawful discrimination.” In a third case, the judges said a 600 million-euro ($718 million) loan guarantee for Finnair is also in line with EU law.
Ryanair, which earlier this month warned that it will struggle to return to profit this year, has filed more than a dozen lawsuits contesting EU approvals for pandemic aid doled out by governments to carriers including Deutsche Lufthansa AG and Air France-KLM. The Irish low-cost carrier argues that the aid for selected airlines creates an unfair advantage and will help rivals to emerge stronger, slash fares and swallow up others.
The company lost its first two cases in February, when EU judges ruled that French and Swedish state support was appropriate for tackling serious disturbances to the countries’ economies caused by the pandemic. Ryanair has argued that French and Swedish programs mainly benefited Air France-KLM and SAS. It’s appealing the decisions at the EU’s top court.
Ryanair has said that the EU’s competition regulator isn’t living up to its task of ensuring governments don’t unfairly help a favored company at the expense of others. The European Commission has been under pressure to approve unprecedented state aid to save the pandemic-struck European economy.
Ryanair said it will appeal the decisions to the EU’s top court “to overturn these unfair subsidies in the interests of competition and consumers.”
“The European Commission’s approvals of the Finnish, Danish and Swedish state aid went against the fundamental principles of EU law,” Ryanair said in an emailed statement. Subsidies “encourage inefficiency and will harm consumers for decades.”
The court on Wednesday said the commission didn’t make a mistake “solely because the aid measures for SAS did not benefit all of the victims of the damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic.”
The cases are: T-378/20, T-379/20, T-388/20, Ryanair v. Commission.