Just over a month ago, Britain’s highest court said “No” to taking a case in which Ryanair lost at the appellate level in December to block an antitrust investigation into its 30% stake in Aer Lingus.  Here is Ryanair’s press release on February 13, 2013 in response to the EU’s block.  And a more recent update press release from Ryanair.

Now…more bad news for Ryanair (… and others?).

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European Union antitrust regulators seem to be once again focusing on the government subsidies paid to airlines like Ryanair (Europe’s massive low-cost carrier with more than 1,600 daily flights connecting 180 destinations in 29 countries) that give such an airline an undue economic advantage, while failing to be economically viable for the relatively few passengers utilizing the airports that are providing such “support” to Ryanair, according to EU Commission regulators.  The EU would likely take a different view of the use of private funds used as investments to meet a legitimate demand, but with millions of euros being pushed upstream to carriers, a matching capital source is doubtful to say the least.

Whereas, Ryanair denies these “public aid purses” are payouts just to keep it operating in the black, asserting they are legitimate service agreements, negotiated as arms-length transactions.

So who are possible losers, besides Ryanair, should subsidies fade away under antitrust protections?  Small airports across Europe may face far stricter guidelines when attempting to use public funds to justify regional development through keeping a carrier (or several) gated at their airport.  Additionally, Ryanair recently announced firm orders for a further 175 new Boeing aircraft at a cost of $15.6 billion to add to its fleet of 303 Boeing 737-800s.

Regardless, in a time of tightening the screws on government funds and an expansion on (or at least demand for) transparency of government payouts, you can expect this antitrust battle to continue inside and outside the courtrooms.  And, don’t panic yet.  These investigations, cases, and, possibly, new regulations may take years to wind through the system(s). And, lastly, look for more witty blunt, and official, press release quotes from Ryanair such as:

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Ryanair believes that the UKCC’s provisional findings contained more jokes than a Monty Python script. Yesterday’s announcement of this extension, merely confirms this fact, which is why the UKCC needs more time to try to invent bogus concerns or strengthen its threadbare case so that it doesn’t have to suffer the indignity of reversing its provisional thinking or ultimately losing on appeal before the UK and European courts. — Robin Kiely, Head of Communications-Ryanair, June 26, 2013 (emphasis added).

So until then, travel safely!

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