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Expensive flights to Sicily, Antitrust opens investigation

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Expensive flights to Sicily, Antitrust opens investigation

Possible distortions of competition deriving from the increase in the prices of air tickets on the connecting routes between the main Italian cities and Sicily in correspondence with the Christmas holidays. Put simply: the airlines may have joined forces causing an abnormal increase in flight prices. This is the key point of the investigation opened by the Antitrust against Ryanair, Wizz Air, EasyJet and Ita on the basis of a complaint presented on December 13 by Condacons Sicilia. Ryanair, Ita airways, Wizz air and Easyjet are the main airlines that offer national air transport services to Sicily, with the number of frequencies operated which varies from route to route but which, with reference to the most important routes (such as Milan- Palermo and Milan-Catania and Rome-Palermo, and Rome-Catania), can reach a total of up to 20 daily flights per route.

Dear flights, Schifani: forward battle Sicily for more services

The Codacons: «Serious distortions».

According to what Codacons reports, “in the provision, the Antitrust, accepting the arguments put forward” by the consumers’ association, “speaks of a possible restrictive agreement on competition in the scheduled passenger air transport market, with particular reference to economy class flights on routes defined by the origin-destination pairs at the ends of which there are, on one side, Palermo or Catania and, on the other, one of the following cities in Central or Northern Italy: Rome (Fiumicino and Ciampino), Milan (including Malpensa, Linate and Orio al Serio), Turin and Bologna, in violation of article 101 TFEU. These distortions, as they affect a particularly important economic variable, such as the price, would be particularly serious, especially in the current phase of the crisis, of difficulties for consumers and a reduction in the purchasing power of household incomes».

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Absolute users: there is suspicion of speculation

The opening of the investigation by the Antitrust has been welcomed positively by Assoutenti, an association which in recent days had carried out a survey on the cost of tickets in the “indicted” sections with results judged to be very surprising. According to that survey, recalls the president Furio Truzzi, the ticket for the Rome-Palermo route (one way) came to cost 370 euros with departure on December 21st, 254 euros if you embark on December 23rd, but even 511 euros if you it left on December 20, practically more than the Rome-New York flight which, on the same date, cost 459 euros. For the Rome-Catania route departing on December 23, the ticket started from a minimum of 338 euros. «Spending on airline tickets is particularly high this Christmas, and not only because of the very heavy price increases in the sector, which have risen on an annual basis by 80% for domestic flights – says Truzzi -. In fact, he suspects speculation and anti-competitive phenomena that exploit the greater departures of citizens during the holidays to increase the earnings of the airlines. For this reason we hope that the investigation opened by the Antitrust will clarify and punish any unfair practice to the detriment of users”.

The Sicilian Region has also presented an appeal to the Antitrus

In terms of expensive flights to and from Sicily, the Sicilian Region was also among the first to report the problem, it had decided to contact the Antitrust but had been anticipated by Codacons. At the instigation of President Renato Schifani, the regional administration has already presented a complaint to the Antitrust: «The situation that has arisen against the Sicilians – says the governor – is there for all to see and I have also brought it to the attention of the country. We look forward to it.” And meanwhile Schifani receives the support of politics. For Forza Italia senator Maurizio Gasparri, «Those who travel to and from Sicily are forced to suffer an intolerable drain. The Antitrust must intervene immediately and the airlines must be ashamed of how they are treating the Sicilian people. An unsustainable situation that must be stopped as soon as possible ».

easyJet: we acted lawfully, ready to cooperate

The companies generally reject the complaints. EasyJet does so, for example, which released a note: «We are aware of the investigation launched by the Competition and Market Authority against some airlines operating in Italy, including easyJet. We firmly reject these disputes, confirming that we have always operated in compliance with the laws and regulations on the matter”. The company explained that “it will collaborate in full transparency with the authorities in order to demonstrate that it has always acted lawfully in compliance with the rules of competition and in the best interests of consumers”.

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