A court has confirmed a ruling in favour of German air navigation services provider DFS forcing Irish low-cost airline Ryanair to pay additional terminal charges amounting to €500,000.
The latest ruling stems from a lawsuit brought by the airline against a total of 24 notifications of charges sent by DFS for the years 2012 and 2013 as Ryanair claimed the basis on which it was calculated was inadmissible.
According to the German Ordinance on Terminal Charges of the Air Navigation Services issued by the German Federal Ministry of Transport, terminal charges should be based on an aircraft’s maximum take-off weight.
If an airline operates aircraft of the same type but with a range of maximum take-off weight, it can either adopt one of these values or operate the aircraft with a flexible weight. In this case, the highest maximum take-off weight permitted has to be taken into account. According to the ordinance, it is irrelevant whether the airline makes full use of this or not for each flight.
Overweight Ryanair flights
Ryanair uses the Boeing 737-800 type aircraft which, depending on route length and amount of jet fuel required, can be operated with alternative maximum take-off masses of either 75, 70 and 67 tonnes.
Ryanair told DFS that it operated all its Boeing 737-800s with the lowest take-off weight, and had entered this into the Irish aeronautical register. However, doubts about this arose in 2012, as the airline flew to destinations that would have been impossible to reach with such a low weight due to the quantity of jet fuel needed.
During subsequent spotchecks at Bremen and Hahn airports, the German Federal Aviation Office (Luftfahrtbundesamt) found that Ryanair aircraft exceeded the stated maximum take-off weight. As a result, DFS changed the terminal charges for Ryanair aircraft. In addition, DFS retrospectively – back to 2009 – charged the airline for the difference between the lower charges and the rate for the maximum take-off weight that Ryanair should have paid.
Court affirms DFS calculation method
Ryanair paid these charges under protest and, in 2014, filed a suit against these notifications of charges. The airline argued that charges had to be calculated on the basis of the actual take-off weight for each individual flight. In 2017, the Darmstadt Administrative Court decided in favour of DFS. It found that Ryanair had to accept the calculation based on the maximum take-off mass, unless it presented official proof of a lower take-off weight.
No appeal was permitted against the judgment by the Darmstadt Administrative Court. The Hessian Higher Administrative Court has now confirmed the 2017 judgement of the Administrative Court and has rejected the request for leave to appeal submitted by Ryanair. This means that the proceedings have legally been concluded.