Italian court orders Emirates to cancel Milan-New York route

Italy has disallowed Emirates to fly transatlantic from Italy.

Non-EU carriers cannot offer fifth-freedom rights (traffic carried between two countries by the airline of a third) passengers to or from Italy, according to ruling by an Italian court.

At present, Emirates operates regularly non-stop between Milan Malpensa and New York. Its B777-300ERs used on the route offer a world-class product which appeals both to northern Italian business travellers and Swiss travellers from nearby Ticino.

But, even though the traffic rights have already been granted, the Italian authorities are now saying “the route [Milan-New York] is already abundantly served by US and Italian airlines”.

Needless to say, the Milanese are unhappy with this decision. Writing on Twitter, Roberto Maroni, president of the Lombardy region, said: “The decision is amazing and shameful, Rome continues to damage the North.”

What the Italians are proposing flies in the face of international aviation law.

After all, fifth-freedom rights are enshrined in international aviation law. And there are many examples in the EU already of fifth-freedom services by non-EU airlines which have operated for years.

So airline experts are wondering if this ruling is really intended to remove competition from struggling national airline Alitalia to encourage investment by Abu Dhabi’s Etihad.

No details are yet available as to when the route might cease. But Emirates may well launch a legal challenge and knowing how fast the Italian legal system functions it could be some time before the outcome is determined.

A statement from Delta said the airline “welcomed the decision”.

It read: “Delta welcomes the decision by the TAR Lazio that the Italian Civil Aviation Authority improperly granted permission to Emirates Airlines to operate nonstop service between Milan and John F Kennedy Airport in New York.

“The TAR Lazio decision makes it clear that Emirates, which is based in the United Arab Emirates, is not authorised to operate this nonstop service.

“The Emirates route provides no additional benefit for travellers, who are already well-served by Italian and US carriers between Milan and New York, and could significantly harm US and Italian airline employees by adding unneeded capacity on an already-competitive market.”

Alex McWhirter

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  • I know Swiss were also very unhappy with this route as a lot of Lugano based travelers heading to NY were using this service, especially those who use Emirates anyway for African and Eastbound destinations and who had FF cards with them.

    Emirates offers a limousine service from Lugano to Malpensa, a superior lounge to that found in Zurich (First Class excepted) with no need to bounce over the Alps in a small Saab aircraft, and as I’m told, a vastly superior Business Class cabin all offered for a fare that’s lower than Swiss.

  • LP – Thanks for the feedback

    Since we published the above piece, official comments have emerged from Emirates and US airline Delta.

    Emirates says, from its Dubai head office, : “We are aware of the ruling by the Lazio Regional Administrative Court [this would be based in Rome] and are reviewing our next step.”

    “We are now considering whether to bring the matter before the Supreme Administrative Court through an urgent appeal.”

    Delta says (statement issued by Atlanta USA): “Delta welcomes the decision by TAR Lazio that the Italy’s ENAC [the Italian civil aviation authority] improperly granted permission for Emirates to fly between Milan and JFK New York. The TAR Lazio decision makes it clear that UAE-based Emirates is not authorised to operate this non-stop service. The Emirates route provides no additional benefit for travellers who are already will served by US and Italian carriers between Milan and New York and could significantly harm US and Italian airline employees by adding unnecessary capacity to an already competitive market.”

  • The weak often dig to find laws to protect themselves. Obviously Emirates deserves to fly because the Dubai-based airliner knows how to do aviation business.

  • Delta’s comments are a disgrace and they should be ashamed of them. If Emirates “provides no additional benefit for travellers” no-one will use the service. And when did any US company ever argue that one could have too much competition?

  • That’s one less reason to visit Milan then. A pity, as I am always financially generous to Italian businesses while I am there.

  • The latest statement from Emirates, says:
    “Italy’s Consiglo di Stao has suspended the ruling of the Lazio Regionale Administrative Court (TAR) until the confirmation order for the suspension is heard.
    Our passengers can be assured that we will continue to operate as normal, and we anticipate that the Court will look favourably on our application to remain on the Milan-New York JFK route until a full hearng for our appeal is heard which is anticipated to take place before the end of this year.”

  • As we in the US of A say, Delta are “haters” – why WOULD they want a better, superior product to run! In all fairness, I guess comparing Delta with Emirates is like comparing a Dodge Dart to a Ferrari Enzo but my point being is if Delta was truly secure with their position (and was okay with their inferior offerings as is most typical US airlines), why should they care. In the end, as one well informed poster wrote, the legal system is a great outlet for those weak companies to get around their competition. Anyone who has flown on Emirates knows its night and day compared to Delta so I guess Delta should be shaking and worried! 🙂

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