‘Cover-up to bail out billionaires’: Ryanair boss threatens legal action against UK govt after it pledges to save Flybe airline

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has threatened legal action against the UK government after it pledged to bail out airline Flybe, claiming the rescue package was “a cover-up so they can bail out a couple of billionaires.”

O’Leary has written to the Chancellor Sajid Javid, demanding that an Air Passenger Duty (APD) tax break (or, as he put it, “holiday”), which has been handed to the struggling airline, should be extended to other carriers, like Ryanair. The outspoken aviation chief claims that failure to do so would mean a breach in state aid and competition rules.

In an interview with Sky News on Thursday, O’Leary ostensibly appeared unconvinced by the UK government’s assertion that they are indeed complying with state aid rules, insisting that, if they were, then “they’d publish the [rescue] deal.”

It’s a cover-up so they can bail out a couple of billionaires, Richard Branson, Delta Airlines and this venture capital company from America…it distorts competition.

The government’s rescue package includes a potential loan of around £100 million (over $130 million) and a pledge to review taxes on domestic flights. It also contains a short-term deferral of the £106 million APD bill due from the beleaguered airline – a tax introduced in 1994 to fund the environmental costs of air travel.

Last year Flybe was taken over by a consortium led by Sir Richard Branson’s Virgin Atlantic – which is 49 percent owned by US airline Delta – together with infrastructure group Stobart and hedge fund Cyrus Capital.

Earlier this week the consortium agreed to inject tens of millions of pounds into Flybe, after it was revealed the regional carrier was on the brink of a collapse, putting more than 2,000 jobs at risk.

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© Reuters / Ints Kalnins
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