France frees Ryanair jet after tarmac standoff over subsidy

Ryanair has a plane SEIZED by French authorities to force the airline to repay illegal public aid

Claiming that Ryanair owed them 525,000 euros ($595,000) in subsidies wrongfully paid out to the airline, the authorities sent in a bailiff under police protection on Thursday to seize the plane on the tarmac of Bordeaux airport as it was readying to take off for London Stansted.

The 149 passengers were heading to London were already on board and had to disembark when the aircraft was seized on Thursday evening, the airport said.

Ryanair passengers exhausted of forking out for everything from a baby's seat belt to checking-in could be forgiven a wry smile after one of its planes was seized in Bordeaux in a row over cash.

Ryanair was reportedly paid French subsidies that were later deemed to be illegal.

DGAC said it the plane "will remain immobilized until the sum is paid".

The Local has approached Ryanair for comment.

It was "regrettable" that the plane had to be impounded "as a last resort" after several efforts to get Ryanair to repay the subsidies had failed, the directorate said.

The standoff with French authorities will not help Ryanair, which more than most carriers, has come to symbolize budget airlines' relentless focus on the bottom line at the cost of customer service.

"By this action, the government reaffirms its intention to guarantee the conditions of fair competition between airlines and between airports", it said.

In reality, Ryanair's plane was seized because of overdue bills.

The airline uses Boeing 737-800 planes, which cost £78.4 million each when new.

"Just because we manage a little airport in Charente it doesn't mean we are not going to defend ourselves", he added.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks for Ryanair, which has recently faced a series of strikes by pilots and cabin crew across Europe.

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