The common consortium of airports of the Charente has requested the reimbursement of the sum of 525.000 euros, foreseen for four years, from the Irish airline.
A small French airport against the gigantic Irish company. This aerial version of David versus Goliath was played Thursday and Friday in Bordeaux. The common union of the airports of Charente (Smac), which since 2014 was waiting for the reimbursement of the sum of 525,000 euros from Ryanair, has finally won the showdown thanks to a strong argument: the blockade of a Boeing 737. Thursday, around 17:30, when the plane had just landed in Bordeaux and was preparing to board 149 passengers for London-Stansted, a bailiff escorted by air traffic gendarmes landed at the foot of the aircraft and delivered to command an order to force him to stay on the Gironde asphalt, a decision of attachment conservatory originating from the DGAC (Directorate General of Civil Aviation). At the same time, the Irish company was informed of the situation. After another plane was flown, passengers finally left for London five hours late.
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"This is an extremely rare measure, even a first in this context," Éric Héraud, spokesperson for the DGAC explains, "This is the last resort since all formal communications have been left unanswered. Smac and Ryanair lasted from 2014. To open a line and settle in Charente airport in 2008, the airline had requested financial help. However, in July 2014, the European Commission declared these public supports illegitimate, as they undermined free competition. Sentenced to be repaid, Smac was able to recover half of the sum in 2016 (about 500,000 euros). But since then, Ryanair has exhausted all possible legal remedies not to pay the balance, citing the subject of a breach of contract in 2010, when the line stopped, according to Didier Villat, president of Smac. "We have done everything in our power to recover this amount," said François Bonneau, chairman of the General Council of the Charente, one of the three members of Smac, "Blocking a plane was the last procedure to bend Ryanair."
"Demonstration of strength"
The seizure of the aircraft (and the significant financial cost of such a block) has been repaid as the Irish company has agreed to repay the 525,000 euros on Friday morning. The aircraft was able to take off the same day at 12:30 pm If one of the company's lawyers, Antoine Guiheux, denounced a "show of force" by the DGAC on France Bleu, Didier Villat du Smac said: "Proud and happy to show that you do not have to be a big airport to enforce the law".
The DGAC's coup is also a signal, while other airports could be affected by unduly received subsidies: next December the European Commission will decide on the aid received by Ryanair in Nimes and Pau (for respective amounts) 6.4 and 2.8 millions of euros) and a survey is underway in Montpellier. In the first two cases, Ryanair has already seized the receivers and has therefore planned to repay.