Italian court orders Emirates to cancel Milan-New York route

11 Apr 2014 by Alex McWhirter

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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