Italy’s antitrust authority is investigating Ryanair for alleged abuse of its dominant market position. Europe’s largest airline and a market leader in Italy, Ryanair is accused of trying to extend its influence into other sectors such as hotels and car rentals to the detriment of travel agencies.
According to Reuters, the Italian Competition Authority suspects Ryanair is using its market dominance to limit travel agencies’ ability to purchase tickets from their site, thus limiting their capacity to provide combined air ticket, accommodation, and transport services.
The same regulator has separately opened an inquiry into possible price-fixing among Ryanair, Wizz Air, and EasyJet for flights in and out of Sicily during Christmas. As a direct response to this, the Italian government decreed the capping of airfares to Sicily and Sardinia. Airlines for Europe (A4E) objected to the measure, claiming it violated the company’s right to set prices and compete. Ryanair’s CEO Eddie Wilson went further, terming the measure illegal and ridiculous.
This intervention is reported to be the cause of Ryanair’s 8% reduction in services to and from the Italian island region of Sardinia as introduced in the winter of 2020 by Premier Giorgia Meloni. The executive has since modified the bill, however, revoking the price cap on tickets, which had been set at 200% of the average fare, and granting the Italian antitrust authority close oversight to inspect any alleged admin practices.
The inquiry against Ryanair is part of an ongoing investigation of the potential abuse of market dominance in the airline industry, both nationally and in Europe’s aviation sector at large. A final decision is expected in 2021.