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Belgian airlines aid broke state aid rules, says EU

18 July 2017, 21:42 CET
Belgian airlines aid broke state aid rules, says EU

Brussels Zaventem airport - Photo Ad Meskens

(BRUSSELS) - Public support granted by Belgium to three airlines flying from Brussels airport gave them an unfair advantage over other airlines, in breach of EU state aid rules, the EU Commission concluded Tuesday.

The airlines are Brussels Airlines, TUI Airlines Belgium and Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium, which received EUR 16.8 million, EUR 2.1 million and EUR 77,000 respectively.

In March 2017 Belgium recovered the aid from each airline (with interest), so the distortion of competition had already been removed before the Commission concluded its in-depth investigation.

The scheme in question was introduced by Belgium in January 2014 and foresaw around EUR 19 million of public funding per year to the operator of Brussels Airport, which was then required to fully pass it on to certain airlines.

In particular, it was used to reduce one of the airport charges (the so-called security charge) paid by airlines that had carried more than 400,000 passengers from Brussels Airport in 2012.

Only Brussels Airlines, TUI Airlines Belgium and Thomas Cook Airlines Belgium met that condition.

An initial payment was made to the three airlines in September 2014 but payments were suspended after the Commission opened its investigation in October 2014.

This Commission's investigation confirmed that the scheme amounted to a selective advantage to the three airlines over their competitors.

The EU executive says Belgian authorities have actively cooperated with the Commission in this case and in March 2017 abolished the scheme and the three airlines have already reimbursed the money received with interest.

More information on today's decision will be available on the Commission's competition website, in the public case register under the case number SA.38105 once confidentiality issues have been resolved. The State Aid Weekly e-News lists new publications of state aid decisions on the internet and in the EU Official Journal.


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