BRUSSELS — The European Commission approved the Greek state's subsidy of 120 million euros to Aegean Airlines for losses related to the coronavirus pandemic, in a decision announced Wednesday, saying that the grant is in line with EU state aid rules.
Speaking of the decision, Executive Vice-President Margrethe Vestager, in charge of competition policy, said that 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," she noted.
Kifissia-based Aegean Airlines transported about 15 million passengers in 2019. 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. The pandemic brought a significant reduction of its services, resulting in high operating losses.
The Greek state grant will compensate Aegean Airlines for the damage suffered from March 23 to June 30, 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 direct grant, which does not exceed the estimated damage directly caused to the airline in that period.
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.