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Last Updated: Tuesday, 26 August, 2003, 20:44 GMT 21:44 UK
Ryanair halts Strasbourg flights
Ryanair tail
Flying to new destinations?

The low-cost airline Ryanair has said it will suspend flights between London and Strasbourg in a row over regional subsidies it receives for operating the route.

A Strasbourg administrative court launched an investigation into the issue of subsidies, following a complaint from rival airline Air France that these were hampering its own services.

The Bas-Rhin Chamber of Commerce and Industry manages the airport in eastern France used by Ryanair, and had promised the Irish carrier 1.4m euros ($1.5m) to set up two daily roundtrip flights to London Stansted.

But Air France protested that its Brit Air subsidiary had been forced to cancel its London-Strasbourg link because of the competition.

The French airline claims Ryanair's aid had given it an unfair advantage.

Losing out?

Ryanair said it had no choice but to halt its service with four weeks' notice after it failed to win a stay of a lower court ruling that the aid it received was illegal.

It is the first time Ryanair has been forced to suspend a service because of challenges from competitors.

"It is wrong that the anti-competitive court actions of Air France should result in the Strasbourg and Alsace region losing, even on a temporary basis, its only scheduled air service to London," Ryanair said.

The carrier's London-Strasbourg will be suspended from 24 September. Ryanair said it would shift flights to Baden Baden airport in Germany, 40km from Strasbourg.

But chief executive Michael O'Leary said the airline would fight the appeal and aim to restore the London-Strasbourg service.

"Jobs and tourism in the French regions cannot and will not survive if all visitors to France are forced to use the Air France hub at Charles de Gaulle," said Mr O'Leary.

"Direct low fares services are vital and the French Government must now support the regional airports."

The BBC's Jenny Scott
"This is an enormously competitive industry, and the traditional carriers are fighting back"

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