Low-cost airline Ryanair must repay about 9.6 million euros in illegal state aid it received from the French government for its operations at several regional airports, the European Commission said on Wednesday.
The Commission, the European Union's executive arm, said Ryanair would have to repay 868,000 euros ($1.16 billion) related to rebates and marketing arrangements negotiated at Angouleme airport in central France.
Ryanair had enjoyed "an undue advantage" and should repay the money so as to "remove the distortion of competition," the Commission said in a statement.
Similar findings at Pau Pyrenees airport required a repayment of 2.4 million euros with 6.4 million euros repayable at Nimes airport, both in southern France, it said.
The Commission said it was continuing an investigation into Austria's Klagenfurt airport where airport service and market agreements "appeared to be excessively favourable to Ryanair and therefore could involve incompatible state aid."
Probes into three German regional airports c Dortmund, Leipzig/Halle and Niederrhein-Weeze, where Ryanair is the largest client – found no problems with state-aid payments, it added.
In response, Ryanair said it welcomed the Commission's rulings on the three German airports but would appeal against the other findings.
"All of Ryanair's airport arrangements comply with EU state aid rules and Ryanair has therefore instructed its lawyers to appeal these rulings to the extent they erroneously allege otherwise," it said in a statement.
The company, which pioneered low-cost, no-frills air travel in Europe, said it currently ran four routes out of Nimes but had ceased operations at Pay Pyrenees in 2011 and at Angouleme in 2009.