Ryanair may pull Strasbourg route after row over £1m handout

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The Independent Online

Ryanair may be forced to end its service between London and Strasbourg unless it can overturn a court ruling that has barred it from receiving payments in return for flying to the French city.

The low-cost airline was promised €1.4m (£1m) from the Strasbourg Chamber of Commerce when it started the service in October last year. In exchange, it promised to carry 375,000 passengers a year after five years of flying the route.

However, last week a French court ordered the Strasbourg Chamber of Commerce to stop paying Ryanair for flying to the city and gave it two months to end the arrangement. The court ruled that the Strasbourg Chamber of Commerce was a public institution, making any funding it provided to a company equivalent to state aid.

Ryanair has now lodged an appeal against the ruling with the High Court in France, saying its service has given a huge boost to tourism in the Strasbourg region. Passenger numbers on the route have reached 20,000 a month, from 3,000 a month before Ryanair began flying between the cities.

The Irish airline may have to suspend its route, however, while the case is heard and may be forced to withdraw from Strasbourg entirely.

"It is one of the options we are considering," a spokes-woman for Ryanair said yesterday. "We haven't taken any decisions on the route yet, but we may be left with no choice." She said none of the other 24 routes Ryanair flies from 19 French airports would be affected by the court case.

The proceedings were initially brought by Air France, which filed a lawsuit alleging the payments were unfair. A subsidiary of Air France, Brit Air, pulled out of flying between Paris and Strasbourg in May.