The European Commission has “concluded on a preliminary basis” that the deal involved illegal state aid.
The European Commission says it has opened “an in-depth investigation” into a marketing deal between Ryanair and Montpellier-Méditerranée Airport in southern France, to see whether it constituted illegal state aid.
Under the deal, Ryanair received substantial payments, the commission alleges, in exchange for promoting the Montpellier region as a tourist destination on its website.
“We will investigate whether regional and local authorities in France granted an undue economic advantage to Ryanair over its competitors,” Commissioner Margrethe Vestager, who is in charge of competition policy, said.
Ryanair said in a statement that all of its airport arrangements comply fully with EU state aid rules.
“We are confident that the EU will find our Montpellier deal is in line with EU State aid rules,” it stated.
Montpellier is a regional airport but is one of the twenty largest in France and served 1.9 million passengers in 2017.
The commission received a complaint about marketing agreements between the Association for the Promotion of Touristic and Economic Flows (Association de Promotion des Flux Touristiques et Economiques) and Ryanair.
The complainant alleges that a number of agreements between the association and the airline since 2010 amount to illegal state aid in favour of Ryanair.
Although unrelated to the airport operator, the association is funded almost entirely by regional and local public entities, and the commission has “concluded on a preliminary basis” that the agreements with Ryanair are financed through state resources.