Ryanair aircraft arrested in France

On 8 November 2018 a Ryanair-operated Boeing 737 was arrested at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport.

While commercial aircraft are sometimes arrested in France, these are rarely operated by major airlines with Europe-wide operations. The arrest of Ryanair’s aircraft thus deserves attention.

While developing its French network, Ryanair received support from various regional airports in France, including theMixed Syndicate of Charente Airports (SMAC), a public entity which manages certain regional airports. The EuropeanCommission ultimately found this financial support to be illegal (as it breached the prohibition on state subsidiesunder several EU treaties) and, as a result, Ryanair had to repay the illicit subsidy to the SMAC.

When Ryanair failed to make the requested payment in full, the SMAC requested the Bordeaux court to order thearrest of a Ryanair aircraft on its arrival at Bordeaux-Merignac Airport. This request was granted and the aircraft wasarrested. Ryanair paid the requested amount within hours.

The court order was based on Article L6123-2 of the Code of Transport, which provides, among other things, that theprecautionary arrest of an aircraft may be requested by the minister of transport if a state subsidy has not been repaidin accordance with a European Commission decision or where the European Court of Justice has voided the same.

This provision was perfectly suited for the case at hand. However, in other circumstances (eg, if a creditor has a claimagainst an aircraft’s owner), specific conditions must be met in order for aircraft to be arrested.

For further information on this topic please contact Matthieu de Varax or Wissam Dahmani at Odi-se Avocats bytelephone (+33 1 7935 0750) or email ( or The Odi-se Avocats websitecan be accessed at