France has commandeered a Ryanair plane at the airport in Bordeaux (west) to force the Irish airline to return an amount that the French authorities claim. As reported by the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC) on Friday, the affected aircraft was due to leave the Bordeaux-Mérignac airport on Thursday with 149 passengers on board for London when the authorities ordered their detention. The airline finally sent another plane and passengers arrived at their destination five hours late.
The origin of the litigation is 525,000 euros that the mixed union of airports of Charente paid to Ryanair between 2008 and 2009 so that its planes operated in the small airport of Angulema-Cognac. The European Commission declared this aid illegal in 2014 and therefore the authorities of the French department demanded that the airline return the money. "The State reaffirms with this act its willingness to guarantee the conditions of fair competition between airlines and between airports," the DGAC said in a statement.
The French aviation authorities have insisted that the decision to go to court to seize the plane, a decision on which there are no precedents in more than ten years, has been taken as "last resort" after the failure of numerous requests to the airline. Sources from the DGAC have indicated to the Efe agency that they expect Ryanair to pay the amount owed on Friday.
The lawsuit by the French authorities with Ryanair comes at a time when the Irish airline plans to expand in France. At the end of last September, he declared his intention to open two bases in the country, one in Marseille (south) and another in Bordeaux. The announcement ended a cycle of seven years, which have happened since Ryanair dismantled its bases in France for adverse rulings on their employment contracts. The airline plans to invest 200 million euros and make about 70 weekly flights at the Bordeaux airport.