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Owner of British Airways files complaint over Flybe bailout

The Guardian logo The Guardian 15/01/2020 Gwyn Topham Transport correspondent
a large jetliner sitting on top of a body of water: Photograph: Brian Anthony/Alamy © Provided by The Guardian Photograph: Brian Anthony/Alamy

British Airways’ owner IAG has filed an official complaint to the European Commission over the bailout of Flybe, amid growing political and industry backlash to the government’s rescue of the ailing regional carrier.

IAG has written to the competition directorate of the EU saying that the rescue deal announced on Tuesday night by ministers, which could include a £100m loan and deferral of an outstanding tax bill, contravenes state aid rules.

IAG’s chief executive, Willie Walsh, had earlier described the deal as “a blatant misuse of public funds”.

The European Commission said it was ready to discuss with Britain its rescue of regional airline Flybe, noting that any state aid should be designed to avoid the distortion of competition and a level playing field.

Gallery: What it's like to travel on Flybe, the budget airline used by the royals (INSIDER)

“As with all member states we stand ready to discuss with the UK the compatibility and proposed public measures with the EU state aid rules,” Arianna Podesta, a spokeswoman for the European Union’s executive told a news conference.

“In general ... any state aid intervention needs to be designed so that competition is not distorted and a level playing field is maintained.”

She made no further comment on the agreement to raise new funds for Flybe that was announced on Tuesday.

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