Ryanair plane seized by French authorities in row over unpaid bill

AFP  File | The French authorities stopped a Ryanair plane from taking off to put pressure on the airline

AFP File | The French authorities stopped a Ryanair plane from taking off to put pressure on the airline

The Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGAC) revealed that it commandeered the aircraft at Bordeaux airport on Thursday in response to allegations Ryanair owes French authorities €525,000 (£457,000).

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

Ryanair had been ordered for some time to pay back funds that the European Union had declared to be illegal subsidies.

One passenger told The Associated Press that airport authorities told them there "was an issue with the plane".

French aviation agency spokesman Eric Heraud said regional authorities who originally gave the subsidies had been trying since 2014 to recover the money, and sent its final legal warning in May.

The airline paid the bill on Friday.

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

'The plane will remain stationary until the debt is paid'.

The EU also ordered authorities to recoup money from Transavia over benefits they had received at two other French regional airports. A row over French subsidies Ryanair was paid for flights from Angouleme airport in the Charente region between 2008 and 2009 was blamed for the Boeing 737's seizure.

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.

The pan-European stoppages prompted the airline to cut its profit forecast, but it still expects to make profits after tax of 1.10-1.20 billion euros in its current financial year.