EU adopts new guidelines regulating aid to airlines at regional airports


BRUSSELS (XFNews) - The European Commission said it has adopted legally binding guidelines regulating state aid given by governments to airlines operating new routes from regional airports.

Under the new plans, governments would be able to grant state aid to cover 30-50 pct of the start-up costs accrued by airlines at regional airports over a maximum of five years.

The guidelines are for airports with fewer than 5 mln passengers a year. A commission spokesman said that in "exceptional cases" airports with 5-10 mln passengers would be looked at on a "case-by-case basis".

The public funding of airport infrastructure is also covered by the rules. National governments are free to finance new air transport infrastructure, but the commission will monitor the situation to ensure competition is effective.

"The new guidelines will increase transparency and prevent any discrimination in the agreements concluded by regional airports and airlines on start-up aid," the EU executive said.

The commission added that the rules will "guarantee" equal treatment for public and private airports and ensure that airlines receiving aid are not unduly favoured.

The decision comes after the commission earlier this year was involved in an aid dispute with low-cost carrier Ryanair.

Last February, the airline was ordered by the commission to repay approximately 4 mln eur of a total 15 mln in state aid given to operate at Charleroi airport in Belgium.

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