Officials in the western department of Charente and France's aviation authority DGAC which is home to over 6,000 Brits, ordered the bailiffs to Bordeaux airport on Thursday evening to seize the Ryanair plane before it took off bound for London Stansted airport.
Passengers were not allowed to board the plane and the aircraft was forced to remain on the tarmac until a debt had been paid.
Regional newspaper Charente Libre reported that the plane was close to take-off for London's Stansted airport when a bailiff declared it seized on the tarmac and sealed the aircraft.
The Irish airline reportedly owes €525,000 to the department of Charente, a debt that dates back to the subsidies paid to Ryanair to provide flights from Angouleme airport to London in 2008 and 2009.
Those subsidies were judged illegal by the European Commission in 2014. Ryanair was ordered by court to repay the €965,000 subsidies it received but has only stumped up around half the money.
Charente airport union leader Didier Villat told SudOuest newspaper: "To my knowledge it's the first time a Ryanair plane has been seized in this way."
"Just because we manage a little airport in Charente it doesn't mean we are not going to defend ourselves," he added.
A statement from France's aviation authority the DGAC read: "By this act the French state reaffirms its desire to guarantee the conditions of fair competition between airlines and its airports," adding that the move to seize the plane was a "last resort" after several failed efforts to reclaim the debt.
The plane "will remain immobilised until the sum is paid".
Passengers who were supposed to board the grounded flight were put on another plane that left five hours later. The DGAC called the disruption to passengers "regrettable".
The Local has approached Ryanair for comment.
Last month, EU anti-trust authorities opened an investigation into whether Ryanair benefited from measures at a German airport that give the Irish low-cost carrier an unfair leg-up over competitors.
And last week ministers from five European governments warned Ryanair that it could face legal trouble if it ignores national labour laws after a series of strikes across the continent.
The pan-European stoppages prompted the airline to cut its profit forecast, but it still expects to make profits after tax of 1.10-1.20 billion euros in its current financial year.
Ryanair is also fighting an order by Italian regulators to suspend a charge for carry-on bags.