Ryanair has today lost its fight against state aid granted to flag carriers including rivals Air France and SAS after a top European court said such schemes amid the Covid-19 pandemic were not discriminatory.

Ryanair said it will now refer the issue to the Court of Justice of the EU.

The judgments from the Luxembourg-based General Court is the first to deal with aid measures cleared by the European Commission under easier rules aimed at helping European Union governments prop up companies hit by the pandemic.

The court said the French and Swedish schemes were in line with the bloc’s rules.

“That aid scheme is appropriate for making good the economic damage caused by the Covid-19 pandemic and does not constitute discrimination,” the court said, referring to the French scheme.

Regarding the Swedish scheme, the court said: “The scheme at issue is presumed to have been adopted in the interest of the European Union.”

Ryanair had taken issue with the European Commission for clearing a French scheme allowing airlines to defer certain aeronautical taxes and Sweden’s loan guarantee scheme for airlines.

Both schemes benefited their flag carriers.

Europe’s biggest budget carrier has filed 16 lawsuits against the Commission for allowing state aid to individual airlines such as Lufthansa, KLM, Austrian Airlines and TAP, as well as national schemes that mainly benefit flag carriers.

Under European Commission state aid rules loosened since the start of the pandemic, EU countries have offered more than €3 trillion in aid to companies in various sectors across the 27-member bloc.

In a statement following today’s rulings, Ryanair said it will now refer the matters to the Court of Justice of the EU.

“We hope that the Court of Justice will overturn the European Commission’s approvals of the French and Swedish schemes, to give airlines and consumers a glimmer of hope,” the airline said.

A Ryanair spokesperson said that one of the EU’s greatest achievements is the creation of a true single market for air transport, underpinned by the principle of a common EU airline licence – one for each airline.

“A nationality condition in a State aid scheme is plainly incompatible with the single market,” the spokesperson added.

“Ryanair is a truly European airline. We have no rich and powerful “home country” to subsidise us in times of trouble. Nor do we want discriminatory aid. Our instinct in a crisis is to seek efficiencies and cost savings, to offer more routes at lower fares – while remaining Europe’s greenest airline,” the airline added.