Italy investigates Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet over Sicily flight prices

Italy's antitrust regulator said it had opened an inquiry into alleged price-fixing on flights to and from Sicily by airlines including Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet.

Italy investigates Ryanair, Wizz Air and easyJet over Sicily flight prices
No-frills airlines Ryanair and easyJet are among those accused of raising prices on flights to Sicily during the Christmas holidays. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP)

Italy’s antitrust authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato – AGCM) was investigating claims that airlines had deliberately raised fares on routes linking mainland Italy with Sicily during the Christmas holidays, Reuters reported on Wednesday.

The investigation followed a complaint by consumer group Codacons, which alleged “a specific collusive will” of airlines to raise prices for domestic Italian flights to and from Sicily, the regulator said.

The complaint also involved ITA Airways, the state-owned successor of former flag carrier Alitalia.

Codacons said any deliberate price distortions “would be particularly serious in the context of the current crisis, of difficulties for consumers and households’ declining spending power,” newspaper l’Eco del Sud reported.

Passengers travelling on domestic flights to Sicily over Christmas faced the steepest ticket prices in Italy, Codacons alleged, saying single economy fares from Bologna or Turin to Palermo were at least 300 euros. The same ticket would be around 400 euros from Milan, and up to 500 euros for the one-hour flight from Rome.

Assoutenti, another consumer rights group, found in a separate survey in mid-December that a one-way ticket from Rome to Palermo cost up to 511 euros on December 20th – more than Rome-New York JFK, which cost 459 euros on the same date.

In a statement to Reuters, easyJet denied any wrongdoing.

“easyJet strongly refutes these claims, adheres to relevant laws and regulations and will fully cooperate with the authorities to demonstrate it has always acted lawfully and competitively in the best interests of consumers,” it said.

The other airlines had not responded to requests for comment, Reuters said.

The cost of domestic flights is particularly sensitive in Sicily, as many people from the island move to mainland Italy to work or study and typically return to spend Christmas with family and friends.

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Ryanair cuts more Italian flights after aircraft delivery delay

Irish low-cost airline Ryanair announced it had been forced to cancel flights including on some Italian routes due to the late delivery of new aircraft from manufacturer Boeing.

Ryanair cuts more Italian flights after aircraft delivery delay

Ryanair said in a statement on Thursday that it was making “a number of winter 2023 schedule reductions as a direct result of Boeing aircraft delivery delays.”

The airline said it had expected to receive 27 new planes from the manufacturer between September and December this year, but it now expects to receive 14 aircraft between October and December due to production delays.

Because of this, Ryanair said it would have to reduce the number of aircraft by five across its Italian bases, including at Bergamo, Naples and Pisa, as well as cutting the number at Charleroi by three and Dublin by two.

No further details were immediately available as to which routes would be affected.

READ ALSO: Italy investigates Ryanair’s ‘market dominance’ after flight price cap shelved

Michael O’Leary, group chief executive at Ryanair, said the cuts were “deeply regrettable”.

“These flight cancellations will take effect from the end of October, and will be communicated to all affected passengers by email over the coming days.

“Passengers will be offered re-accommodation on alternative flights or full refunds as they so wish. We apologise sincerely to passengers for any inconvenience caused by these delivery delays this winter.”

The airline said it was working with Boeing to try to accelerate deliveries from January 2024 so that it can begin the summer 2024 peak travel season with all 57 new Boeing aircraft as planned.

The announcement came after Ryanair earlier in September said it would cut the number of flights to the Italian islands of Sicily and Sardinia this winter as a result of the Italian government’s plan to bring in restrictions on fare prices.

The government has since backtracked on the proposal, but Ryanair has not confirmed whether its flight schedule will now be changed.