State aid: Commission approves €4.8 million Belgian aid measure to compensate Air Belgium SA for damages suffered due to coronavirus outbreak

The European Commission has found a €4.8 million Belgian aid measure to support Air Belgium SA (Air Belgium) to be in line with EU State aid rules. This measure, aims at compensating the airline for the damages suffered during the period between 14 March and 30 June 2020 due to the coronavirus outbreak and the travel restrictions imposed by Belgium and other countries to limit the spread of the virus. As a result, Air Belgium incurred significant operating losses and experienced a steep decline in traffic and profitability over this period. The aid will take the form of a capital injection, financed by the three public shareholders of the company. The Commission assessed the measure under Article 107(2)(b) of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU), which enables the Commission to approve State aid measures granted by Member States to compensate specific companies or sectors for damage directly caused by exceptional occurrences. The Commission considers that the coronavirus outbreak qualifies as such an exceptional occurrence, as it is an extraordinary, unforeseeable event having significant economic impact. The Commission found that the Belgian measure will compensate the damage suffered by Air Belgium that is directly linked to the coronavirus outbreak. It also found that the measure is proportionate, as the aid does not exceed what is necessary to make good the damage. On this basis, the Commission concluded that the damage compensation measure is in line with EU State aid rules. The non-confidential version of the decision will be made available under the case number SA.61709 in the State aid register on the Commission’s competition website.