The European Commission has opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether measures in favour of Ryanair at the German airport of Frankfurt-Hahn are in line with State aid rules. The Commission will also investigate certain measures in favour of the airport operator FFHG.
Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: "Fair competition is essential for consumers, jobs and growth - also for air transport operators. We will investigate whether regional and local authorities in Germany, against the rules, gave an unfair advantage to Ryanair over its competitors, potentially harming other airlines and having spill-over effects on other regions in Europe."
Frankfurt-Hahn airport is a regional airport located in the German State of Rhineland-Palatinate, approximately 120 km west of Frankfurt am Main. It handles around 2.5 million passengers per year, as well as significant freight traffic. The airport is operated by the company Flughafengesellschaft Frankfurt-Hahn GmbH (FFHG), which between 2009 and 2017 was controlled by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. On 1 March 2017, the HNA Group purchased 82.5% of FFHG.
The Commission received a complaint concerning certain measures in favour of Ryanair with respect to its operations at Frankfurt-Hahn Airport, as well as other measures in favour of airport operator FFHG. The complainant alleged that these measures amounted to illegal State aid in favour of Ryanair and FFHG respectively.
With respect to Ryanair, following a preliminary assessment, the Commission has decided to open an in-depth investigation in relation to:
Certain marketing agreements between the State of Rhineland-Palatinate and Ryanair, concluded prior to 2009, when the State was not the controlling stakeholder of FFHG, the airport operator;
Several other agreements governing the financial relationships between Ryanair and FFHG, concluded between 2009 and 2017 when FFHG was controlled by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate. These agreements include airport service agreements, training aid to Ryanair, the financing of a crew and pilot school as well as the funding of a maintenance hall for Ryanair.
At this stage, the Commission has concerns that the agreements in question may give Ryanair an undue economic advantage vis-à-vis its competitors that might amount to incompatible aid in favour of Ryanair.
The Commission will now investigate further to find out whether its initial concerns are confirmed.
With respect to airport operator FFHG the Commission has today:
Opened an in-depth investigation with respect to two measures adopted by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate - a guarantee granted to FFHG with respect to a sale of land to an aircraft maintenance company and a measure related to the sale of a plot of land by FFHG - to verify whether these measures are in line with EU State aid rules, and in particular with the provisions of the Commission's Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines.
Concluded that the other measures in favour of FFHG covered by the complaint either do not constitute State aid or are in line with EU State aid rules.
The opening of proceedings gives interested third parties an opportunity to submit comments on the measures under assessment. It does not prejudge the outcome of the investigation.