Ryanair defiant after failed appeal over Strasbourg route

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Michael O'Leary, the combative chief executive of Ryanair, yesterday vowed to fight a court ruling in France which upheld an earlier decision that the low-cost airline received illegal financial aid to set up a route between Strasbourg and London.

"We will keep losing this case until we can get it out of France and into the European Court if necessary. They don't call us the fighting Irish for nothing," Mr O'Leary said.

The row stems from a complaint by Britair, a subsidiary of Air France, which claimed it was forced to cancel its service between the cities because of unfair financial help given to Ryanair by the local authority, which was keen to attract extra tourists to the area.

"The ludicrous thing is that Air France was offered the same deal as us if they could deliver the same passenger numbers,"Mr O'Leary said.

"They were delivering 1,000 passengers a month while we delivering 20,000 passengers a month. They got back on the route through the courts and now they are back delivering 1,000 passengers.

"We would like to apologise to ordinary French consumers and visitors, who will continue to be forced to pay Air France's high fares of nearly €800 (£560) for Strasbourg to London flights instead of the €9 one-way fares charged by Ryanair," he said.

Air France believes Ryanair's campaign on the Strasbourg ruling is a smokescreen and simply a propaganda exercise by the Irish company.

Ryanair said the latest court decision, taken in the Court of Appeal in Nancy, flew in the face of the court's own appointed Commissaire de Government who said in a submission that the Administrative Court in Strasbourg did not have the competence to make a finding on the commercial agreements between Ryanair and Strasbourg Airport.

However, Ryanair will now be forced to take the case to a higher court to win its argument and have its costs awarded against Air France.

"Ryanair is committed to restoring its low-fares Strasbourg to London service and will be appealing this decision, if necessary all the way through the French courts and to the European Court in Luxembourg itself," the company said yesterday.