The Italian Competition Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, AGCM) has launched an investigation against Ryanair and its “dominant” position in the Italian market.
The ACGM has announced that proceedings have been initiated against Ryanair, “the leading operator in scheduled passenger air transport on national flights and to and from Italy”. The authority’s hypothesis is that the low-cost carrier would “leverage the dominant position held in the markets in which it operates to extend its power also in the offer of other tourist services (for example hotels and car rental) to the detriment of travel agencies – online and offline – and the customers who use them to purchase these services”.
It has received various reports about Ryanair since May 2022.
Ryanair was also accused of “hindering” travel agencies from purchasing tickets from its website, with the airline instead offering them itineraries on a Global Distribution System or GDS platform at higher prices and with inferior post-sale ticket management offerings.
According to the Italian competition authority, travel agencies are typically the first point of purchase when booking a holiday, acting customers a service to buy additional travel options.
As such, “limiting” the travel agencies’ choices could “lead to worsening conditions in terms of quantity and quality and unjustified difficulties in managing the booking,” the ACGM accused.
According to yearly traffic data from the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (Ente Nazionale per l’Aviazione Civile, ENAC), of the total 164.3 million air passengers in Italy during 2022, Ryanair carried 45.6 million.
The airline’s closest competitors, namely Wizz Air (11.5 million passengers) and easyJet (11 million), plus the flag carrier ITA Airways (10.3 million), had much fewer passengers. As such, Ryanair held a dominant market share position, carrying 34.6% of the total international and domestic passengers flying on scheduled journeys.
In comparison, the Italian air traffic system handled a total of 192.2 million passengers in 2019, of which Ryanair carried 40.5 million. The second-largest airline in terms of passenger numbers in 2019 was Alitalia, with 21.7 million.
“We welcome the Italian Antitrust Authority investigation which will make it clear to passengers that they should book directly on Ryanair.com for the lowest fares and so we can communicate directly with them to ensure they make the necessary security declarations and are informed directly of all safety and regulatory protocols when travelling, as legally required,” a Ryanair spokesperson said in an email to AeroTime. According to the representative, it was surprising that the ACGM “has shown no interest in the fact that prices of Ryanair flights and optional services on online travel agent websites often exceed the original Ryanair.com prices by up to 200%”.
UPDATE September 20, 2023, 4:15 am (UTC +3): The article was updated with a statement from Ryanair.