(Adds Ryanair to appeal)
BRUSSELS, July 23 Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair
must repay about 10 million euros ($13.47 million) in
illegal state aid it received from France for operating at three
small regional airports, European Union regulators said on
The European Commission said the French support, which
consisted of contractual rebates and airport and marketing
deals, gave the world's biggest budget airline an unfair
Ryanair said it would appeal the "erroneous" decision.
The EU competition watchdog said Ryanair would have to pay
back about 6.4 million euros related to aid received for
operating at Nimes Airport, the subject of an Air France
Ryanair will also have to return 2.4 million euros in aid
connected to Pau Pyrenees Airport and about 868,000 euros
related to Angouleme Airport.
The airline said in a statement that the airports in
question had carried a total of 3.4 million passengers, compared
to 86.5 million passengers at seven other airports where
commercial arrangements had been questioned but ultimately
Ryanair, whose success in securing lucrative deals from
small regional airports was a key factor in its growth to
becoming the largest international carrier in Europe, said the
ruling would not impact its expansion plans.
The EU ruling also ordered Air France's low cost subsidiary
Transavia to pay back 400,000 euros in aid related to marketing
and airport service deals at Pau Pyrenees Airport.
The Commission broadened its investigation into financial
deals at Austria's Klagenfurt Airport, saying these seemed to be
excessively favourable to Ryanair.
But it cleared state aid granted to Germany's Dortmund,
Leipzig/Halle and Niederrhein-Weeze airports as they complied
with the rules.
($1 = 0.7426 Euros)
(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee in Brussels and Conor Humphries in
Dublin; editing by Adrian Croft and Elaine Hardcastle)