The European Court of Justice has ruled that Scandinavian airline SAS did not receive illegal state backing from Denmark and Sweden during Covid-19 lockdown, in a case initiated by rival company Ryanair.
The case, which has been tried at several levels of the ECJ, has now reached its conclusive judgement, meaning SAS is cleared.
Ryanair brought about the case against its competitor because it argued the Covid support given to SAS represented preferential treatment.
The Ireland-based low-cost airline said that SAS was given a credit guarantee of a maximum of 1.5 billion Swedish kronor by Denmark and Sweden.
The money was partly compensation for lost turnover resulting from Covid-19 restrictions. But Ryanair said that gave SAS an unfair advantage in competition with other airlines.
Ryanair’s claimed was dismissed by the ECJ on Thursday, with the court finding that the Danish and Swedish backing was in line with EU rules.
SAS’ larger market share than its rivals meant the company was harder-hit by travel restrictions, the ECJ found.
“The Court of Justice definitively dismisses Ryanair’s actions concerning the loan guarantees put in place by Sweden and Denmark in April 2020,” the court said in a statement.
“The Court of Justice points out, in particular, that the aid measure at issue could be limited to SAS. It was not necessary for it to benefit all undertakings that suffered damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic,” it added.
SAS continues to struggle financially long after Covid-19 travel restrictions were rescinded. The airline reported a loss of 638 million Swedish kronor in August, it said in results published this week.
It was, however, able to present a profit in its results from the second quarter of this year.