Ryanair announced on Wednesday that it has applied to the regional administrative court in Lazio for an immediate injunction to overturn the recent unlawful attempt by ENAC (the Italian Civil Aviation Authority) to restrict capacity at Rome Ciampino Airport by almost 30% from November 2007.
The Irish airline says that in so doing, the Italian Authorities are again trying to support the terminally ill Alitalia by blocking low fares and competition in Rome. Ryanair has also submitted a complaint to the European Commission asking it to immediately intervene on behalf of consumers to prohibit this unlawful reduction of capacity at Rome’s secondary airport.
Ryanair says that for the past year ENAC has been trying by various unlawful means to restrict the low fares and choice offered by airlines at Rome Ciampino as follows:
False claims about a night time noise issue at the airport, despite the fact Ryanair, which uses the quietest and youngest aircraft in Ciampino, does not operate any night time flights at Ciampino. All of Ryanair’s repeated requests for a detailed noise study at Rome Ciampino Airport to expose the truth of this matter have been ignored. Such a study would have proved conclusively that noise problems at Rome Ciampino are being caused by military aircraft operating at night and have nothing to do with the commercial movements of airlines like Ryanair or Easyjet.
In May last year ENAC imposed an unlawful PSO monopoly between Rome and Alghero forcing Ryanair to stop offering low fares and choice on this route. Again, there were no grounds for this blatant attempt to protect Alitalia and the European Commission has now instructed the Italian Government to reverse this unlawful decision.
Now ENAC has issued an order that capacity at Rome Ciampino airport is to be reduced by 30% to just 100 movements per day from November. They have also ordered that the airport must close for at least 5 months for unsubstantiated ‘essential’ runway works and that commercial flights should not return to Ciampino upon completion. There is no evidence that there is any problem with the runway in Ciampino. Airlines were not consulted about ENAC’s claimed need to undertake these runway works. Furthermore ENAC have made no attempt to explain why commercial flights should be not be allowed to return to Ciampino upon completion of these works.
Speaking on Wednesday in Rome, Ryanair’s CEO Michael O’Leary said; "This latest unlawful attempt by the Italian Authorities to restrict capacity and block low fares at Rome Ciampino airport is bad for Italian consumers/visitors. If Ryanair and the other low fare airlines using Rome Ciampino are removed unlawfully by ENAC, Italian consumers/visitors will be forced to pay Alitalia’s rapaciously high fares and fuel surcharges while tourism in Rome will suffer irreparable damage.
"We have asked the Lazio Court for an injunction to stop this unlawful reduction in capacity at Ciampino so that Ryanair can continue to operate on its existing network of routes this summer and to offer new services. Without this injunction the following routes would have to be terminated: Rome to Madrid; Rome to Saragoza and flights to Glasgow and Madrid would have to be drastically reduced. Ryanair would also be prevented from re-launching the Rome to Alghero route – a route it was forced to terminate due to an unlawful PSO imposed by ENAC. Ryanair has also called on the European Commission to intervene immediately on behalf of Italian consumers/visitors who should not be denied flights or forced to pay higher fares because of these unlawful efforts to provide further illegal state support to Alitalia".
Asked if Ryanair might have any interest in buying Italy’s loss-making airline, O'Leary said: “Alitalia? I would not want it if it were given to me as a present. Alitalia could have a future, but only if it is free from political influence and union pressures.”
Meanwhile, also on Wednesday, Michael O'Leary was appealing to Taoiseach Bertie Ahern to intervene in the controversy concerning Aer Lingus' decision to cut the Shannon-London Heathrow link.
Michael O'Leary had written on Tuesday afternoon to Bertie Ahern offering to use Ryanair's 25% share in Aer Lingus, alongside that of the Government's 25% shareholding, to request the Board of Aer Lingus to reconsider its decision to close its Shannon-Heathrow route.
Ryanair said on Wednesday that Bertie Ahern's office this morning fobbed off the Ryanair offer by claiming that "It will be brought to the Taoiseach's attention as soon as possible".
Calling on Bertie Ahern to respond urgently, Ryanair's Chief Executive, Michael O'Leary said:
"It is extraordinary that Bertie Ahern, who would normally show up to the opening of an envelope, has suddenly gone missing as Aer Lingus closes a profitable route at Shannon and announces up to 50 job losses.
Ryanair said that it has offered Bertie Ahern the opportunity to save this route and these jobs, but it said that it appears that Bertie Ahern is too busy on his holidays to do either.
"Perhaps the 5 Star Parknasilla Hotel doesn't have a phone or a fax machine?. Perhaps Bertie's mobile phone doesn't have any coverage while he is in South Kerry? Surely it's not too much to ask Bertie to take 5 seconds out of his holidays to respond to Ryanair's offer to work with other shareholders in Aer Lingus to preserve these jobs and these flights for Shannon and the West of Ireland.
"Bertie Ahern's Government blatantly lied last year about preserving Aer Lingus's connections between Shannon and Heathrow, while Ryanair in its proposal to acquire Aer Lingus, committed to maintain the existing Aer Lingus routes to Heathrow. In the circumstances it's not too much to ask Bertie to interrupt his holidays to honour the assurances which his Government gave to the people of Shannon and the Mid West region last year".