In today’s judgment, the General Court of the European Union (GC) has dismissed as unfounded actions brought by Ryanair and Laudamotion against the state aid granted to Austrian Airlines, Austria’s leading airline. Ryanair and Laudamotion sued against the state aid of 150 million euros granted by the Republic of Austria to Austrian Airlines, which was approved by the European Commission last year. This state aid compensated Austrian Airlines for losses resulting from worldwide travel restrictions during the Corona pandemic from early March to mid-June 2020. It was part of a total financing package worth 600 million euros. This also included an equity injection of 150 million euros from Austrian’s parent company Lufthansa and a state-guaranteed bank loan of 300 million euros.
In contrast to its previous judgments on pandemic-related state aid to the German Condor, the Dutch KLM, and the Portuguese TAP, in which the General Court overturned the European Commission’s decisions because of deficiencies in the statement of reasons, the General Court in the present case considered the state aid to be compatible with the internal market. In particular, the General Court denied the alleged discrimination against Ryanair and Laudamotion. The General Court thus followed the reasoning of the European Commission, which was supported in the proceedings by the Republic of Austria, the Federal Republic of Germany, and Austrian Airlines as interveners. The decision of the General Court is not yet final – Ryanair and Laudamotion can now appeal to the European Court of Justice (ECJ).
In the proceedings before the General Court, Austrian Airlines relied on a team from E+H led by partner Dr. Andreas Zellhofer, as it did in the approval proceedings before the European Commission last year. Dr. Tamara Maria Christ, Board Representative Financial Aid of Austrian Airlines, expresses her gratitude for the excellent support: “From the very beginning, it was clear to us that only a law firm with not only excellent professional expertise but also the necessary experience to strategically manage a project of this size and complexity would be considered for this task. Andreas Zellhofer’s team succeeded in representing our case not only vis-à-vis the European Commission, but now also vis-à-vis the General Court in an extremely competent and convincing manner.” Andreas Zellhofer adds: “We would like to thank Austrian Airlines for the excellent cooperation and are very pleased that we were able to successfully support Austrian Airlines in this challenging project.”
Advisors to Austrian Airlines AG:
E+H Eisenberger + Herzog Rechtsanwalts GmbH
Dr. Andreas Zellhofer (Partner, Competition and Antitrust Law)
Florian Sagmeister (Attorney at Law, Competition and Antitrust Law)
About Austrian Airlines:
Austrian Airlines is Austria’s leading airline. Once a state-owned airline, the red-white-red fleet continues to operate a route network of around 130 destinations. Its home airport of Vienna-Schwechat is a hub between East and West thanks to its favorable geographical location and Austria’s history as a melting pot of the former crown lands. About 120 of its 360 daily flights go to Central and Eastern Europe. “AUA,” as it is known in Austria, carries around 15 million passengers a year and employs 7,000 people from 58 nations. AUA has been part of the Lufthansa Group since 2009. Austrian Airlines is also a member of the Star Alliance, the first global alliance of international airlines. Austrian Airlines has been in the black since 2012. In 2018, it celebrated its 60th anniversary.