Passengers stranded as London-bound Ryanair plane is seized by France

The Ryanair plane was seized at Bordeaux Merignac airport

The European commission ruled that about €1m of subsidies paid to Ryanair in return for it providing flights from Angoulême, 80 miles (130km) north-east of Bordeaux, to London between 2008 and 2009 were illegal.

The 149 passengers due to get on the plane for a flight to London Stansted endured a five-hour delay before another Ryanair craft arrived to take them to their destination.

It was not immediately clear how much money French authorities were trying to reclaim from Ryanair. "By this act, the State reaffirms its desire to guarantee the conditions for fair competition between airlines and between airports".

The plane "will remain immobilised until the sum is paid". The airline owes the regional aviation authority €525,000, the Charente Libre newspaper reported.

'Just because we manage a little airport in Charente it doesn't mean we are not going to defend ourselves'.

But aviation authority spokesman Eric Heraud said Ryanair had paid back the funds and the plane would be released.

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The plane was close to take-off when a bailiff declared it seized on the tarmac and sealed the aircraft.

Ryanair's fleet is made up mostly of Boeing 737-800 aircraft, which have a list price of more than $90 million each.

The EU also ordered authorities to recoup money from Transavia over benefits they had received at two other French regional airports.

It is the latest in a series of setbacks for Ryanair, which has recently faced a series of strikes by pilots and cabin crew across Europe.

The stoppages contributed to a 7% fall in profits to €1.2bn (£1.06bn) for the six months to 30 September.

Ryanair did not respond to requests for comment.

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