Low-cost carrier Ryanair announced an 8% reduction in flights to and from the Italian island of Sardinia this winter, with similar changes in the pipeline for Sicily.
Three domestic routes (Cagliari-Trieste, Alghero-Bari and Alghero-Treviso) have been canceled altogether, and another seven routes, including key connections to Rome, Milan (Bergamo and Malpensa) and Brussels, will decrease in frequency.
The Irish airline — Europe’s largest, by passengers — claims the move is a direct result of a recent ruling by the Italian government. The so-called Omnibus directive aims, in part, to quash airlines’ use of algorithm-based dynamic pricing, a cost-management strategy that sets fares based on supply and demand.
The decree, which has not yet become law, places a general price cap on domestic flights, prohibiting rate hikes that exceed 200% of the average cost of a given route. It also bans the use of algorithms when applied to Sardinia and Sicily, or when used to capitalize on seasonal peaks in demand.
According to Ryanair DAC CEO Eddie Wilson, the move to control travel costs to the islands will not only negatively impact tourism, but is in violation of European Union regulations. In response to Wilson’s assertion, the European Commission said it would ask for clarifications from Rome.
Ryanair’s Chief Commercial Officer Jason McGuinness called on the Ministry of Business and Made in Italy to repeal the decree and to abolish the €6.50 municipal surtax paid by every passenger traveling between the islands and mainland Italy — a proposal he alleges would allow the airline to add 2 million more seats to Sardinia and 3 million more to Sicily beginning in 2024.
On the heels of the Sardinia-Sicily controversy, Ryanair on September 12 launched its winter 2023 and 2024 routes out of Milan (Bergamo and Malpensa), announcing two new aircrafts and 10 new routes between Milan and Belfast, Brussels, Cluj, Iasi, Kaunas, Lanzarote, Lublin, Rovaniemi, Tenerife and Tirana, and increased frequency of connections to Alicante, Barcelona, Malaga, Marrakech, Valencia and Vienna.
Ryanair couched the Milan announcement in critical language, claiming that the Italian government is interfering with their freedom to set low fares on domestic routes, causing them to shift focus and capacity onto international routes “that are not subject to illegal fare limits.”