easyJet takes Italian Ministry to court

easyJet has lodged a formal appeal against the Italian Transport Ministry and the
Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) over the right to operate the
route Milan-Olbia.The appeal was filed with the regional administrative
court in Rome in March.

easyJet has already submitted, a formal complaint against the Italian
authorities to the European Commission for anti-competitive behaviour.
The European Commission is already assessing the decree and has the
power to overrule it, if it is found to be against the EU’s Open Skies
Agreement.

 

easyJet announced its intentions to operate from Milan to Olbia in
Sardinia, as part of its expanding number of routes at its new base at
Milan Malpensa. In response to this, the Italian Civil Aviation
Authority (ENAC) took the unprecedented step of writing to easyJet to
request that the airline stopped selling seats on the route, as part of
its plans to impose Public Service Obligation (PSO) status on the route.

 

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The clear loser would be the Italian air travellers. easyJet’s starting
price for the route is €30.99, by far the cheapest for flights between
Milan and Olbia. easyJet has already sold 10,000 seats on this route,
which underlines that there is more than sufficient demand to sustain
normal competition.

 

In response to ENAC’s surprise move, easyJet’s Chief Executive Andrew
Harrison wrote to the Italian Transport Minister Pietro Lunardi and to
ENAC in an attempt to find an amicable solution while maintaining the
airline’s legal right to operate the route under the European Open Skies
Agreement. Despite easyJet’s efforts, the Italian authorities insisted
on their position, leaving easyJet no choice but to take legal action.

 

Arnaldo Munoz, General Manager Commercial for Southern Europe, said:


“It is absurd to impose PSO status on a route that a commercial airline
has already announced it wants to operate - it goes against every single
PSO principle and is a clear breach of European law. Unfortunately the
narrow-minded protectionism of a few people has forced us to take legal
action.  PSO routes have no place in a free market and such back-door
protection should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

 

Italy tried to impose virtually the same decree last year, which was
suspended after Alitalia successfully challenged the decree in an
Italian court. This is the first and probably the last time I fully
agree with Alitalia. 

 

easyJet will not stand on and let ENAC get away with this blatant piece
of anti-competitive behaviour that is nothing more than back-door state
aid for a few of the Italian airlines. Italian air travellers deserve
better than this and easyJet will continue to fight for their rights and
prepare for launch on 21 April as planned.

 

easyJet has been a reliable partner for the autonomous region of
Sardinia, providing year-round services from London and Berlin that have
boosted tourism in Sardinia especially during the past winter. In the
past 12 month, we have carried over 170,000 passengers to and from
Sardinia.”

 

Under European law, any EU-based airline can offer scheduled flights
between any two airports within the EU. The opening of the market has
led to lower prices and more choice for consumers in the past ten years.
Only under very specific circumstances, a PSO status can be imposed on
routes where there is no viable commercial operation and a government
considers it a “lifeline service”. 

easyJet launched its first Italian base at Milan Malpensa on 9 March and
will operate domestic routes from Milan to Naples, Palermo and Olbia in
the coming weeks. easyJet now offers 40 routes from 11 Italian airports.

 

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