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Ryanair loses challenge against COVID aid for Lufthansa's Austrian unit

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By Foo Yun Chee

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - Ryanair on Wednesday lost its challenge against EU-approved state aid for Austrian Airlines, ending a brief run of successful cases brought as governments propped up their national flag carriers during the pandemic.

Europe's biggest budget airline has launched 16 lawsuits against the European Commission for allowing billions of euros in state aid for individual airlines hit by the coronavirus pandemic.

In addition to Austrian, those carriers include Austrian's parent Lufthansa and Portugal's TAP.

Ryanair took its grievance to the Luxembourg-based General Court, Europe's second highest, after the EU competition enforcer approved Vienna's decision to grant aid to Austrian Airlines in June 2020.

"The aid granted by Austria to Austrian Airlines in order to compensate it for the damage resulting from the cancellation or rescheduling of its flights due to the COVID-19 pandemic is compatible with the internal market," the General Court ruled on Wednesday.

"That aid, having been deducted from the subsidies granted, in the same context, by Germany to the Lufthansa group, which also includes Austrian Airlines, does not constitute overcompensation in favour of that group."

Ryanair said it would appeal to the EU Court of Justice (CJEU), Europe's highest court.

The General Court this year has ruled in favour of Ryanair in its challenges against aid given to German charter airline Condor, KLM and TAP.

It has thrown out challenges against aid for SAS, Finnair and Air France.

The case is T-677/20 Ryanair & Laudamotion v Commission (Austrian Airlines; Covid-19).

(Reporting by Foo Yun Chee, additional reporting by Conor Humphries in Dublin; editing by Kirsten Donovan Louise Heavens and Jason Neely)

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