Commission urged to clip Air France's wings

British airlines are stepping up pressure on the European Commission to bring Air France, the state-owned operator, to heel. They claim Air France, already being taken to the European Court over Brussels' approval of a Fr20bn (£2.3bn) subsidy, continues to flout Europe's free trade rules and the conditions set when the aid was granted.

The mounting concern comes as Spain seeks 130bn pesetas (£650m) for its national airline, Iberia, which submitted its second case for aid to the new EC transport minister, Neil Kinnock, earlier this month.

Last week British Midland urged the Commission to investigate Air France's decision to cancel orders and options for 17 aircraft. Approval of the Fr20bn (£2.4bn) in aid - equivalent to the total losses made by the world's airline industry on international routes last year - was based on Air France's restructuring plan.

If the orders have been cancelled "it is clear that Air France will no longer require the full Fr20bn increase in capital", British Midland said in its letter to the EC.

Other airlines have complained that Air France is refusing to repay a further Fr1.5bn raised via bond issues that has been deemed illegal by the European Commission.

And there are claims that the French government has cynically flouted decrees to open up Paris's Orly airport to competition by changing take- off and landing rights. New rules governing peak time flights favour the larger aircraft of Air France, with BA and especially British Midland facing restrictions.

"Anger over the subsidy has intensified," said one analyst. "There is a feeling Air France is just thumbing its nose against the rest of Europe."

Where the French Ministry of Transport has opened up domestic routes to competition it has simultaneously waged a ruthless price war, even last month cutting fares several times in one day.

British Airways said Paris's actions were a serious setback for the development of a genuine free market in Europe's airline market. Last year, BA joined forces with five other European airlines, including KLM of the Netherlands and Scandinavian Airlines Systems, to bring an action in the European Court against the subsidy.

British Midland and the UK Department of Transport have started separate actions. These latest Air France actions will provide further evidence for a case against the subsidy but it could take some time to resolve.

The French company defends itself vigorously, arguing that the Fr20bn injection was to re-capitalise Air France and reduce £4bn in debts, not to buy new aircraft. The changes in slot allocation at peak times at Orly were based on environmental issues and the need to deal with increasing demand for flights.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs Money & Business

SThree: HR Benefits Manager

£40000 - £50000 per annum + pro rata: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager / Financial Services

£30000 - £37000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Established in 1999, a highly r...

Jemma Gent: Year End Accountant

£250-£300 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Are you a qualified accountant with strong exp...

Jemma Gent: Management Accountant

£230 - £260 Day Rate: Jemma Gent: Do you want to stamp your footprint in histo...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower