Alitalia is a leading Italian airline that has faced financial difficulties and related restructuring projects over the years. Following the government's extension of the deadline for completion of the sale of Alitalia, three prospective investors have presented more structured offers. This run of offers represents a step forward in the sale of Alitalia's business, even if negotiations must still be carried out in the next few months.
The Rome Division of the Tax Commission recently ordered the full refund of debit notes issued by the Lazio region to a foreign carrier for payment of the tax on aircraft noise pursuant to Regional Law 2/2013. The Tax Commission stated that the carrier had not breached EU Directive 2002/30/EC. Accordingly, it cancelled the debit notes issued by the Lazio region to the foreign carrier and ordered a complete refund of the tax paid by the carrier under the tax on aircraft noise.
The most recent Italian case law has upheld the European Court of Justice's interpretation of EU Regulation 261/2004 in Wallentin-Hermann and Van der Lans by qualifying a hidden manufacturing defect as an 'extraordinary circumstance' under the meaning of Article 5(3) of the regulation and rejecting passenger claims for compensation under Article 7 of the regulation.
In a recent decree the Ministry for the Economic Development started the extraordinary administration procedure for Alitalia pursuant to Law 39/2004 and appointed commissioners to lead the company throughout the procedure. The main purpose of the extraordinary administration is to implement a recovery plan meant to preserve employment levels through the financial restructuring of the company, the sale of the business as a whole or the sale of the business, assets and contracts part by part.
The Competition Authority has often fined airlines for imposing limits on round-trip tickets which force passengers to take flights in the order listed on the original ticket (ie, the so-called 'no-show rule'). The Council of State recently found this rule to be lawful. However, to protect consumer rights, the rule must strike a balance between the commercial needs of airlines and consumer rights. This decision confirms the increased focus on consumer rights without neglecting the commercial needs of airlines.
Italian courts are facing an increase in judicial claims by debt collection companies for denied boarding and the cancellation and delay of flights pursuant to EU Regulation 261/2004. The claims are based on the assignment of passenger rights to compensation under the regulation. The increase in judicial claims has led to jurisdictional and legal entitlement issues which have been resolved by different Italian court approaches.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) recently issued a circular regarding non-scheduled air transport services operated outside the European Union to and from Italian airports. ENAC's rules apply to EU carriers and extra-community carriers on the condition that their states of origin grant equal treatment to EU carriers and are in line with the Italian Navigation Code.
The Supreme Court recently changed its approach to the interpretation of the commercial relationship between airlines and ground-handling companies, with the main focus being the damages suffered by passengers as a consequence of the supply of handling services. The key point in this regard is whether a ground-handling company can be considered to be an auxiliary entity of the airline.
In the past few years the EU legal framework regarding airports has been highly revised, obliging the aviation authorities of member states to revise national regulations accordingly. The Italian implementation process is supervised by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, which has developed a road map for ensuring the Italian airport system's compliance with the new EU rules by the December 31 2017 deadline.
The European Commission recently issued a formal notice to the government for failures in implementing the EU Airport Charges Directive. The commission contested the consultation procedure that aimed to regulate charges at five major Italian airports through contract agreements between airport management and the Italian Civil Aviation Authority. The government is working on its formal comments regarding the alleged non-compliance.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) recently issued a new regulation on remotely piloted aerial vehicles, which supersedes the existing regulation in that regard. ENAC makes a distinction between remotely piloted aircraft systems, which are subject to the provisions of the Navigation Code, and model aircraft, which are exempt from the code's provisions.
A recent Constitutional Court judgment established a fundamental rule for the implementation of a regional tax on aircraft noise. The Lazio Region argued that tax on aircraft noise is a matter under the exclusive jurisdiction of the Italian regions. However, according to the court, the guidelines fixed at a national level play an important role in coordinating the implementation of the tax on aircraft noise region by region.
The Competition Authority recently fined low-cost air carrier Ryanair €550,000 for unfair commercial practices, following an investigation opened in June 2014. The investigation arose from complaints by passengers and consumer associations over major difficulties and exorbitant costs when trying to contact Ryanair regarding the fulfilment of contracts.
The Senate has passed into law the Sblocca Italia Decree, which contains the new Salva Malpensa legislation. The new legislation completely restates the article of the former Salva Malpensa Decree, intended to develop air transport to and from Italian airports in order to support the industry and promote the country's economic growth in general.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority has issued a revised circular on the operation of extra-EU scheduled services, which regulates the authorisation and designation procedure for carriers in accordance with international air transport agreements. This attempt to enhance the regulatory framework was influenced by the challenges experienced by the air transport industry in recent years.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) recently issued the Regulation on Remotely Piloted Aerial Vehicles, which represents one of the first pieces of legislation to provide a legal framework for the operation of drones. The use of this kind of aircraft has increased dramatically recently. ENAC's initiative thus fills the regulatory gap within which these professional and commercial operations have been taking place.
The Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC) has issued a circular to implement Article 802(2) of the Navigation Code, which provides that the ENAC can prevent the departure of aircraft when relevant taxes, charges and fees due by the operator are outstanding. Notice of any such non-payment is given to the ENAC by the relevant airport management company, the Italian Agency for Air Traffic Control or Eurocontrol.
The Italian Air Carrier Association recently challenged the authorisation granted to Emirates in respect of slots and traffic rights to extend its daily flights from Dubai to Milan onwards to New York, alleging that it breached the Chicago Convention, Italian law and the bilateral agreement between Italy and the United Arab Emirates. The court accepted this challenge and nullified the authorisation, although Emirates' appeal is pending.
The Italian Competition Authority recently issued two decisions against leading European low-cost airlines Ryanair and easyJet, fining them €850,000 and €200,000 respectively, for misleading commercial practices. The authority held that both airlines had failed to provide adequate information in respect of the optional purchase of travel insurance for prospective flight cancellations.
Two recent cases of 'fifth freedom' rights granted by the Italian Civil Aviation Authority to foreign carriers have characterised the mood of the Italian air transport sector of late. In both cases domestic competitors have challenged the relevant authorisations before the courts. The cases concern the rights of Emirates and Qatar Airways to perform long-haul routes to the United States while flying through Milan Malpensa Airport.