On the 26 October 2018, the European Commission opened an in-depth investigation to assess whether certain measures adopted in favour of the airline Ryanair with respect to its operations at Frankfurt-Hahn airport and of the company Flughafengesellschaft Frankfurt-Hahn GmbH (FFHG), that operates such airport, are in line with EU State aid rules. FFHG was controlled by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate between 2009 and 2017.

In the aviation sector, the Commission’s Guidelines on State aid to airports and airlines of 2014 permit investments in favour of regional airports, provided that they contribute to the improvement of the connectivity, to the hub decongestion and to the regional development, and that they are limited to what is necessary to reach those objectives. Moreover, according to the Guidelines, public funds can be used by regional airports to attract price-sensitive airlines through incentives such as, for example, low airport charges and discounts to airport charges.

During the investigation, the Commission will examine, in particular, certain marketing agreements between the State of Rhineland-Palatinate and Ryanair, concluded prior to 2009, when the State was not the controlling stakeholder of FFHG, as well as several other agreements between Ryanair and FFHG, concluded between 2009 and 2017 regarding, for instance, training aid to Ryanair. The Commission will assess whether these agreements may give the airline an undue economic advantage vis-à-vis its competitors.

The Commission will also analyse the measures adopted by the State of Rhineland-Palatinate consisting of a guarantee granted to FFHG with respect to a sale of land to an aircraft maintenance company and of a measure related to the sale of a plot of land by FFHG.