The European Commission has found a Greek grant of €120 million to Aegean Airlines to be in line with EU State aid rules. The measure aims at compensating the airline for the losses directly caused by the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions imposed by Greece and other destination countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus.
Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said: “The aviation industry is one of the sectors that has been hit particularly hard by the coronavirus outbreak. This measure will enable Greece to compensate Aegean Airlines for the damage directly suffered due to the travel restrictions necessary to limit the spread of the coronavirus. We continue working with Member States to find workable solutions to support companies in these difficult times, in line with EU rules.”
Aegean Airlines is a Greek-based airline, which in 2019 transported about 15 million passengers. Before the coronavirus outbreak, Aegean operated flights from its main hub in Athens and from other Greek airports to 155 domestic and international destinations in 44 countries. Since the start of the coronavirus outbreak, Aegean has suffered a significant reduction of its services, resulting in high operating losses.
Greece notified to the Commission an aid measure to compensate Aegean Airlines for the damage suffered from 23 March 2020 to 30 June 2020 resulting from the containment measures and travel restrictions introduced by Greece and other destination countries to limit the spread of the coronavirus. The support will take the form of a €120 million direct grant, which does not exceed the estimated damage directly caused to the airline in that period.
The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate specific companies or sectors for damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences.
The Commission considers that the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as such an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event having significant economic impact. As a result, exceptional interventions by the Member State to compensate for the damages linked to the outbreak are justified.
The Commission found that the Greek measure will compensate the damage suffered by Aegean Airlines that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the aid does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage.
On this basis, the Commission concluded that the Greek damage compensation measure is in line with EU State aid rules.
23 December 2020 Brussels