The European Commission ordered the Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair to return to France €8.5 million of illegal aid paid under contracts for Montpellier airport.
A year-long investigation found out that the Association for the Promotion of Touristic and Economic Flows (APFTE) had given €8.5 million to the airline between 2010 and 2017 in order in exchange for promoting Montpellier and the surrounding area as a touristic destination on the airline’s website.
But the Commission has found that this marketing service was, in fact, an incentive to maintain Ryanair’s operations at Montpellier airport (MPL). Furthermore, as APFTE is an independent association, not related to the airport operator and financed almost entirely by regional and local public entities, it concluded that these contracts were financed with state resources.
“The European Commission has come to the conclusion that the marketing services contracts concluded between the Association for the Promotion of Tourism and Economic Flows (APFTE) and Ryanair at Montpellier Airport are illegal under the EU rules on State aid,” said the authority. Ryanair must now reimburse the illegal State aid of €8.5 million to France.
Similar discrepancies were already noted in other airports in France, Germany, and Italy. The Commission said it was currently examining further agreements among airlines and the German airport of Frankfurt-Hahn, as well as the Spanish airports of Reus and Girona.