Ita-Lufthansa, the final blow of the Lowcost before the Europeans, with the battle for Linate

The road towards the first acquisition of Ita Airways by the Lufthansa group just doesn't go down to Brussels. The situation today is this: Lufthansa put 325 million euros on the table to initially acquire 41% of the carrier from the State, but last January the European Commission opened an antitrust investigation justifying it with fears that the operation may limit competition between companies in the Union. According to the calendar, the issue should be closed in the first few days of June, but one wonders whether the same Commission that raised the doubts and which evidently supports low-cost will still be there. Behind, in fact, there is the request of low-cost carriers (so to speak, they no longer exist as we knew them in the nineties until the pandemic), which expect the group that will be formed to give up a third of the slots in some airports, with Milan Linate in the front row. A condition which, if accepted, would see them renounce the antitrust opinion and, if necessary, also a subsequent appeal to the Court of Justice. There are two companies that are screaming: Ryanair which wants to expand to Fiumicino and Malpensa, arrive at Linate and sell higher cost tickets to the business market; Easyjet which has always wanted to operate from Linate. The reason is that here Germans and Italians combined occupy over 60% of the time spaces needed to land, unload passengers, take on new ones and take off again. Behind it there is also the Hungarian Wizz, which has a strategic market in Milan and wants to open a new training center in Rome, but there is also the privatization of the Portuguese Tap which worries Ryannair, there is the Iag group ( British Airways, Vueling, Aer Lingus) which would like Air Europa and the investment announced by the Air France-KLM group to enter SAS. However, there is one point that the Antitrust cannot ignore, namely Ryanair's dominant position in northern Italy, complete with a training and maintenance base in Bergamo and slots scattered throughout the Lombardy airport system.

In short, the small Forlanini airport, always – and unjustly – accused of killing Malpensa, but preferred by over half of Lombardy (those who live from southern Milan to Mantua are certainly not comfortable going all the way to the Varese area, and there are six-seven million people out of eleven), as well as recording record numbers in terms of executive traffic (business and private flights), it is the target that Michael O'Leary and his associates have had in mind for some time to create a market area that cannot be scratched by which to feed routes across the continent today, and who knows in the future. Also because they know perfectly well that the Milanese have no time to waste and prefer to spend a little more just to get to the terminal or home without traveling 70 km spending 13 euros on a train for a service defined as “first class only”. It is not clear why What. And then now there is the blue line of the metro which changes everything, two euros and twenty and in 15 minutes you find yourself in the centre. At Pozzetto you would say “Taac”.

It is no coincidence that the Commission also lists to the Antitrust the strategic position of the Forlanini and its slots for bringing passengers to the airports from which they then continue to Asia and North America.

But at Linate a limited slot transfer program also exists because their number can no longer increase, furthermore it is not clear why low-cost companies should be worried about the supply of American airlines when there are six carriers operating from Malpensa to the USA (and Canada) even if Lombards don't always choose them and prefer to stopover in France or Germany. Because commercial aviation has always been the most globalized there is; furthermore, the now seven freedoms of the air – which are rules of the ICAO, i.e. the world's highest aeronautical body – establish free competition without setting continental boundaries. If anything, the Italian state should not have to completely abandon Ita Airways to Lufthansa even in ten years' time, perhaps by re-discussing the agreement, since by joining the group we Italians would be part of a giant (albeit an elephant in Europe but a little mouse in the world), which controls already Swiss, Belgian, German, Austrian and Dutch carriers such as Swiss and Edelweiss, Eurowings, Lufthansa, Brussels and Air Dolomiti, as well as being a participant in the management companies of German and Greek airports (let's not forget the sale to Troika). And this too does not sit well with the Commission nor with the competitors of the Teutonic group. To make a long story short: according to Brussels, passengers from Lombardy today can choose where to leave from for other continents, while with the Ita-Lufthansa wedding no longer. But when you think about it, it's absurd, given that all carriers are free to change strategy and none have enough airplanes and slots to saturate every route. Furthermore, companies such as United Airlines and Air Canada are partners of the Germans and decide with them routes, costs and timetables. So, for example, if a flight like Rome-Washington were operated only by Ita and United, no one could stop British Airways from activating a Malpensa-Washington, as five carriers have done in recent years, including Emirates.