AA, UAL: Italy violated aviation agreement

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WASHINGTON -- American and United accused the Italian government of violating the U.S.-Italy aviation agreement, and they want the U.S. to retaliate by forbidding Alitalia from selling service from the U.S. to Milan's Linate Airport.

Alitalia serves the U.S.-Linate market with its own aircraft and via code sharing with Delta and Air France.

In a joint complaint filed at the Transportation Department against the Italian government and Alitalia, American and United said Italian authorities rejected their requests to place their code on European airline partner flights to Linate from European airports.

The two U.S. carriers claim this refusal violates the aviation agreement by denying them the right "to a fair and equal opportunity to compete."

Milan is served by two airports: Linate, about six miles from the city's center, and Malpensa, about 29 miles away. The Italian government is trying to promote Malpensa as a hub to alleviate congestion at Linate.

American and United used to offer nonstop service to Malpensa but said they withdrew because they could not compete against one-stop U.S.-Linate service offered by Alitalia and its code-share partners as well as by some European carriers via their European hubs.

Local passengers, particularly local business travelers, prefer Linate because of its proximity to the city, American said.

Italian authorities told American and United their requests were rejected because, under a transportation minister decree in 2001, the government will allow only European Union carriers to offer intra-European service to Linate.

The authorities said Alitalia service complies with that decree because it operates between Linate and Paris and Rome, where it connects with its partner flights that serve the U.S.

To contact reporter Andrew Compart, send e-mail to [email protected].

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