The EU referred France to the bloc's top court on Monday for failing to recover nearly 10 million euros in illegal state aid received by low-cost airlines Ryanair and Transavia.
Ireland-based Ryanair and Dutch carrier Transavia received the money from the French government in return for basing operations at several French regional airports.
The European Commission, the European Union's executive arm, ordered Paris in July 2014 to get the money back, saying it had given the companies an unfair advantage over competitors.
"The European Commission has referred France to the European Court of Justice for failing to recover incompatible aid received by Ryanair and its subsidiary Airport Marketing Services (AMS) for using Pau, Nimes and Angouleme airports, as well as Transavia for using Pau airport," it said in a statement.
Brussels has demanded 6.3 million euros from Ryanair over the use of Nimes airport in southern France, 2.4 million euros from Ryanair and 420,000 euros from Transavia in relation to Pau Pyrenees airport, and 870,000 euros for Angouleme in central France.
It said rebates and marketing arrangements meant the airlines paid less than they should have for using the airports.
Ryanair had appealed against the recovery orders made by the French government, effectively blocking the EU action in French national courts, the Commission said.
"In order to ensure its state aid decisions are fully implemented the Commission has therefore decided to refer France to the European Court of Justice," it said.
Last year Ryanair, which pioneered low-cost, no-frills air travel in Europe, said it had ceased operations at Pau Pyrenees in 2011 and at Angouleme in 2009.