Ryanair plane impounded in France in row over illegal subsidies

AFP  File | The French authorities stopped a Ryanair plane from taking off to put pressure on the airline

The passengers eventually took off five hours late on another Ryanair aircraft.

The French civil aviation authority said it was "regrettable that the state was forced" to seize the plane, but that it took the measure because the low-priced airline had repeatedly ignored demands to repay subsidies a regional government handed to Ryanair.

The European Commission ruled in 2014 that aid was illegal and ordered the airline to reimburse the department.

The authority did not specify the amount owed by Ryanair. "By this act, the State reaffirms its desire to guarantee the conditions for fair competition between airlines and between airports".

DGAC said it the plane "will remain immobilized until the sum is paid".

The department had the support of France's civil aviation authority, the direction générale de l'aviation civile (DGAC), which said in the press release: "It is regrettable that the State was forced to take this measure, which caused unavoidable inconvenience for the 149 passengers of the immobilised aircraft".

The plane, bound for London's Stansted airport, was grounded yesterday.

'Just because we manage a little airport in Charente it doesn't mean we are not going to defend ourselves'.

But the French government said Ryanair had only paid back half the money, so it seized the plane and demanded the balance.

The airline uses Boeing 737-800 planes, which cost £78.4 million each when new.

The pan-European stoppages prompted the airline to cut its profit forecast, but it still expects to make profits after tax of 1.10-1.20 billion euros in its current financial year.

Ryanair did not publicly comment on the seizure.

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