EU Probes Frankfurt Hahn Aid, Includes Ryanair

June 17, 2008

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The European Commission has launched a new probe into whether regional authorities break EU state aid rules by funding local airports used by Irish budget airline Ryanair, this time at Frankfurt's Hahn Airport.

The Commission said on Tuesday it was checking public financing given to the airport by the Hessen and Rheinland-Pfalz regional authorities in Germany, as well as from publicly owned parent company Fraport.

"The Commission has also decided to scrutinize the airport charges applicable at Frankfurt Hahn as well as individual contracts the airport has concluded with the Irish airline Ryanair," it said in a statement.

The Commission has launched similar probes or received complaints from airlines that Ryanair was getting preferential, cheaper airport charges in several European countries in return for bringing travellers to boost sometimes depressed areas. The EU's competition watchdog has previously ordered Belgium's Wallonia region to recover illegal state aid granted to Ryanair's operations at Charleroi Airport, south of Brussels.

The investigation into Frankfurt Hahn -- not the German city's main airport but a remote former US military airfield converted to civilian use after the end of the Cold War -- followed complaints from a competing airline and from an association of airlines, the Commission said.

"After an initial assessment of the evidence, the Commission has concluded that Flughafen Frankfurt Hahn might have acted like a private market investor, but that at this stage, there is insufficient evidence to show this beyond reasonable doubt," it said.

"The Commission's decision acknowledges the positive impact which the development of Frankfurt Hahn has had for the economy of the Hunsrueck region. This can be taken into account when assessing the compatibility of aid with the single market."