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CLARA MOSCHINI

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Ryanair: colonialism 2.0

Low-cost ask still money to the Italian State

New attack on the choices of the Italian Government, promoted by the CEO of Ryanair which claims equal treatment with Italian companies and accuses Italy of violating EU rules on financial aid to face the COVID-19 crisis.

"The bailouts" dedicated exclusively to flag carriers "are regressive, unfair and illegal" and "threaten the future of European aviation as much as the pandemic itself". This is the warning launched by the columns of the "Financial Times" by Ryanair CEO Michael O'Leary, who asks the EU Commission to "defend" the single market from the distortions of State aid to national carriers by the richer member Countries.

The European Commission has recognized that COVID-19 pandemic qualifies as an "exceptional event" under EU law and all Member States have been entitled to provide support to airlines and airports affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, through a mechanism that allows liquidity to be injected into companies facing severe financial pressures due to the ongoing crisis.

EU legislation dictates specific restrictions on airline ownership, but if establishing ownership is relatively easy, identifying who controls the airline is often more difficult.

For example, groups such as International Airlines Group (IAG) owns British Airways, Aer Lingus, Iberia, Level and Vueling; the Air France-KLM group owns Air France, KLM Royal Dutch Airlines and Transavia. Economic ownership is clearly held by the parent company, but the voting right is divided between each of the national subsidiaries.

Given the importance of ensuring that the financial support dedicated to supporting companies affected by the COVID- 19 crisis is limited for the agreed purpose, the States of the European Union have been entitled to decide with discretion on the allocation of aid .

In Italy, it was decided to dedicate part of the funds only to companies with Air Operator Certificate (AOC) issued by the Italian Authority, but for Ryanair this decision is not legitimate.

The liberalized air transport market in Europe has enabled carriers to be able to establish a significant number of local bases across Europe, basing planes and flight personnel in the States from which airline airplanes depart and return and to guarantee these companies the possibility to benefit from the related tax, wage and labor regulations, but for airlines like Ryanair these benefits are still not enough.

Ryanair, following the COVID-19 crisis, is asking for further financial assistance from Italy, despite the fact that there is no apparent willingness to submit to the financial supervision of this country.

This kind of request seems to be part of a real campaign to discredit national decisions, without taking into account the financial assistance opportunities already received, for example in terms of support for workers and specific tax reliefs for the sector to which they belong.

The question then is: is the Italy creating a competitive advantage for national airlines that distorts competition or is Ryanair trying to take advantage of its transnational nature?

Red - 1229972

© AVIONEWS - World Aeronautical Press Agency Srl
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