Friday, March 31st, 2023

Italy: EU Commission Partially Cuts Up State Aid Offered to Four Airlines at Sardinian Airports

Four airlines – easyJet, Ryanair, Volotea and Germanwings, may no longer receive aid, as the European Commission has decided to partially withdraw its 2016 decision to support Sardinian airports.

According to a press release by the EU Commission, the authority is set to make this decision based on a judgment by the Court of Justice, which concludes that the Commission has granted an undue advantage to Volotea and easyJet, while Ryanair’s appeal for the case is still pending, reports.

In July 2016, the EU Commission found that support offered by Italy to these airlines at Sardinian airports didn’t align with the EU State aid rules. Additionally, the General Court upheld the decision regarding easyJet, Volotea and Germanwings in May 2020, and last November, upon appeal by easyJet and Volotea, the Court of Justice partially has withdrawn its decision.

“The Commission will now reassess the Italian public support granted to easyJet, Volotea and Ryanair under EU State aid rules, in view of the guidance provided by the Court of Justice. In particular, the Commission will assess whether the aid granted to those airlines does not go beyond what a private operator would be prepared to offer under the same circumstances in accordance with the methodology established by the Court of Justice in its judgment,” the EU Commission explains in a press release.

A report by Eurocontrol, the EU Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, reveals that the majority of flights recorded between January and September 2022, were operated by Ryanair and easyJet, both low-cost carriers.

More specifically, Ryanair operated 2,854 flights per day on average, representing 10.1 per cent of all operated flights in Europe for the year. In addition, the number of flights operated by Ryanair has surged by nine per cent compared to 2019 levels, when the COVID-19 pandemic hadn’t hit the world yet and no travel restrictions weren’t imposed by responsible bodies.

The second airline to follow was easyJet, although the difference in flights operated by this airline and Ryanair is evident. EasyJet Group operated 1,367 flights on daily basis throughout 2022, consisting of 5.3 per cent of operated flights in Europe. However, compared to pre-pandemic levels, flights operated by easyJet have yet another 21 per cent to fully reach those levels.

While Turkish Airlines, Lufthansa and Air France, followed the list for most operated flights in 2022, Wizz Air Group represented the highest increase in the flights operated on a daily basis compared to pre-pandemic levels as flights were up by 12 per cent, reaching a total of 660.

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