Following a formal investigation procedure, the Commission decided in 2016 that several aid measures granted to Sardinian airport operators for the development of air routes serving the island entailed the grant of unlawful state aid. Among other airlines, Volotea and easyJet were regarded as having benefited from such aid in connection with their activities concerning the airports of Cagliari Elmas and Olbia.
The two airlines brought actions for annulment before the General Court that were dismissed. In the judgment adopted on 17 November 2022, the Court of Justice annulled the General Court’s judgment and the Commission decision in so far as it concerned the two airlines.
In particular, the Court of Justice ruled that it was erroneous for the Commission to consider, in its assessment of the existence of an advantage, that the market economic operator principle was not applicable on the basis that the granting authority had pursued public policy objectives and acted through the intermediary of airport operators which were private undertakings.