Ryanair 737-800. By Rob Finlayson

Ryanair (FR) has condemned the “European Commission’s bias against low fares airlines” and called for an end to its travel policy prohibiting to book flights on LCCs.

At a press conference in Brussels Thursday, FR released copies of emails received from the European Commission’s (EC) travel agency, Amex, stating it is not allowed to book low-cost flights or reimburse travel expenses to and from Brussels Charleroi airport, where FR has a large base.  Ryanair also released a letter from the EC’s director for administration and payment, which said it is “true that the terms of this contract do prevent Amex from booking tickets with ‘low-cost’ airlines.”

The Amex emails and the EC’s letters “unequivocally admit that the EU Commission “prevents” its travel agency from making bookings on low-fare airlines, which would save the hard-pressed EU taxpayer millions of euros each year,” FR CEO Michael O'Leary said. “This prohibition is a blatant subsidy to EU flag carriers and discriminates yet again against Europe’s low fares airlines which have now overtaken Europe’s flag carriers in terms of passenger popularity.”

Ryanair filed a formal complaint with the European Court of Auditors earlier this month, asking it to assess “the legality, regularity and financial soundness” of the travel policy.

Europe’s largest LCC described the EC’s travel policy as the latest example of its bias against low-fare airlines in general, and Ryanair in particular, and criticized the EC’s “rubber stamping” of mergers between flag carriers while blocking a merger between Ryanair and Aer Lingus in 2006.

The EC in past years cleared the merger between Air France and KLM, Lufthansa’s acquisition of Austrian Airlines, Swiss, Brussels Airlines and British Midlands International, and the merger of British Airways and Iberia.