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The French civil aviation authority said it was "regrettable that the state was forced" to seize the plane, but that it took the measure because the low-priced airline had repeatedly ignored demands to repay subsidies a regional government handed to Ryanair.

'By this action, the government reaffirms its intention to guarantee the conditions of fair competition between airlines and between airports, ' it said.

The passengers were put on another flight that finally brought them to London's Stansted airport - five hours late.

The standoff with French authorities will not help Ryanair, which more than most carriers, has come to symbolize budget airlines' relentless focus on the bottom line at the cost of customer service.

A bailiff seized a Ryanair aeroplane at Bordeaux airport, as part of a legal dispute between the airline and the conseil départemental of the Charente.

The EU Commission in 2014 ruled that subsidies Ryanair received from a regional authority had to be repaid, but the airline had not complied despite repeated warnings.

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"The airport staff told us there was an issue with the plane", he told The Associated Press in an email.

Ryanair's fleet is made up mostly of Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which have a list price of around $98 million each.

The French civil aviation authority did not say how much money was involved, but regional airport officials said the sum was €525,000 (£457,000).

Last month, European Union anti-trust authorities opened an investigation into whether Ryanair benefited from measures at a German airport that give the Irish low-priced carrier an unfair leg-up over competitors.

HuffPost UK has contacted Ryanair for comment.

Ryanair has been hit by a number of setbacks in recent months, with pilots and cabin crews across Europe going on strike.


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