The EC plans to impose clearer but tougher rules on governments which wish to subsidise airlines using regional airports.
A working paper published by the Commission says that such support should be available for airlines flying routes from regional airports with fewer than 5m passengers a year but only if no other carrier flies that route and there is no high speed train connection.
Support must also be no more than 50% of the carrier's overall costs and must be for no more than five years.
The paper said it was against a complete ban on such aid adding “the payment of state aid to airlines, whether or not this aid is paid through the airports, can under certain conditions be a necessary means of attracting the passenger volumes” to make the airport viable.
The move comes after the EC ordered Ryanair to repay €4m given to the carrier by the Belgian provincial government of Wallonia to use Charleroi Airport.
The airline said it would reluctantly repay the money.
The EC has asked for comment on it proposals by March 7 followed by a meeting of member states. The rules could become law by summer.
AEA hits at “vaccine” tax
The Association of European Airlines (AEA) has reacted angrily to proposals from some G7 finance ministers to impose a tax on airline tickets to pay for vaccinations in developing countries.
Ulrich Schulte-Strathaus, secretary general of the AEA which represents Europe's major carriers, said it supported humanitarian aid but asked “Why pick on airlines?”
He added: “Our industry is in the midst of a fundamental crisis. Our members are laying off staff and trimming their product to be able to offer the sort of low cost, low fare product the customers want, only to be once again confronted with a measure designed to increase our costs. We keep telling national governments in Europe that the airline sector is not an endless source of taxable revenue”.