AA, UAL fail to gain access to Milans Linate Airport

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WASHINGTON -- American and United still dont have access to Milans Linate Airport -- and no leverage to make it happen -- following the Transportation Dept.s dismissal of a complaint the airlines had filed against Alitalia and the Italian government.

The dismissal in late July also removes the threat of sanctions against Alitalia that would have affected some of its U.S. services.

Milan is served by two airports: Linate, about six miles from the citys center, and Malpensa, about 29 miles from the citys center.

The Italian government promotes Malpensa as an intercontinental hub to alleviate congestion at Linate, and restricts services to Linate to point-to-point, intra-European Union flights by airlines in European Union member states.

American and United, however, filed a complaint arguing that the application of the regulation -- or the lack thereof -- had become unbalanced and anticompetitive.

At the time they filed their complaint in November, American and United noted Italian authorities had rejected their request to place their code on European airline partner flights to Linate from other European airports, even though Alitalia was displaying its own code-share service between Linate and the U.S.

Alitalia acknowledged that such displays had occurred and had violated the Linate restrictions, but blamed technical problems within the GDSs that have since been corrected. In dismissing the U.S. airlines complaint, the DOT agreed, declaring the record shows unequivocally that the first asserted advantage [regarding code-sharing services] no longer exists.

American and United also complained that Alitalia gained an unfair advantage in the market by displaying Linate-Rome flights that connected to Alitalias flights from Rome to the U.S. In dismissing the complaint, however, DOT officials said they have now established, through diplomatic exchanges with the Italian government, that plans are under way to eliminate the second form of asserted Alitalia advantage.

When that is accomplished, the DOT said, Alitalia no longer will be holding out Linate-originating service via Rome, although customers still will be able to book the flights separately.

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

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