They did not use the Italian Post Office. The letters in duplicate, with different signatures, the first Spanish headed paper, the second Italian, traveled exclusively on the ether, that of certified e-mail. After all, considering the senders, they could only take advantage of the sky, the same that for months has seen them opposed and now, almost like a fairy tale with a happy ending, locked in a love affair at high altitude. They have spoken of every color, they have challenged each other with a lot of famous lawyers, disturbing even the most famous robes, from the offspring of the State to those of the Quirinale. They took off their greetings, even those of courtesy, they drew papers and accusations, but you know, business disputes are often "convicts".
Understanding & Authority
It is not known whether the Guarantor Authority, the one that oversees the "restrictive competition agreements", will ever turn the spotlight on those two letters that arrived almost simultaneously in the mailbox of the Autonomous Region of Sardinia, but it is certain that over the skies of the Isolate the war is, for the moment, over. Volotea, the Spaniards of the low-cost air, and Ita, the future Franco-Americans of the skies of the Bel Paese, first gave them a good reason, in the courts and beyond, they did mutual accounts in their pockets, even though to conquer the most profitable of territorial continuities, the one to and from Sardinia, and then, as if by magic, they found themselves in agreement. They made a simple reasoning: on an island, until proven otherwise, you can go or go out only by ship, if you have a few days of time, or, like it or not, if you don't have time to waste, you have to take that "flying coach" with 180 seats suspended at an altitude of thirty thousand feet. The blackmail of the heavens is written in history. Pay full hands or stay on the ground, isolated.
The challenge of the skies
Volotea had dared to question the monopoly scepter of Alitalia, which has always been the absolute dominus of connections to and from the land of the Nuraghi. At issue was not only the explicit challenge to the never-mourned national airline, the Italian one, but above all the titanic clash between a "low cost" and a "major". Two opposing philosophies, from management to earnings. And, in fact, the Spaniards of Volotea only crept into the territorial continuity market when Alitalia, in the throes of an unprecedented financial crisis, had to hand over arms and baggage to the liquidators. The Spaniards of Barcelona took advantage of this when the ashes of the state company had not yet transformed into the Phoenician Arab of Ita. The offer of the Catalan-Aragonese great-grandchildren for Sardinian territorial continuity, a year ago, routed the field. Auction discounts of almost 40%. The most exemplary of the demonstrations in the field: those ten-year contributions, erroneously defined as compensation, were nothing but copious gifts from Rome before and from Cagliari after, to the state management of the pseudo-public company. Hypothesizing reductions of that magnitude on flight management could have two meanings, one surreal and imaginative, cardboard planes, and the other more truthful and credible, in the territorial continuity tender specifications more than one item was blown out of proportion. The administrative courts have had their work cut out to deal with it.
War in the Courts
Appeals with accusations of all kinds, from the lack of the identity card of the Spaniard on duty to the more burning issue of the sustainability of the auction discount proposed by the "caballeros" of the skies. It is here that the first great mystery of that double missive sent in recent weeks to the upper floors of Viale Trento bursts into the aerial proscenium. As if they had reached an agreement, but only those who think badly could do so, the two companies have communicated to the Region that they want to interrupt the air territorial continuity service prematurely. If both had accepted, Ita last March 23 and Volotea five days later, to carry out the connections to and from Sardinia without any financial compensation, so to speak without the 40/50 million euros of the Region, now with the same "timeliness" they have chosen to say enough to that contract, well in advance of the expiry of the service scheduled for 12 May next.
A decision that, regardless of the fact that it matured "surprisingly" and at the same time in both companies, opens up two kinds of problems: one on the "feasibility" of the renunciation and the other on the reasons for the "termination". On the "feasibility" it is obvious that the lawyers of the two companies will have read and reread the "codicils" of the contract, but it is equally true that it seems impossible that a public contract can be resolved "unilaterally" without anyone paying duty. There is no doubt, in fact, that the two companies are actually missing the annual contract signed with the Region only after having filled the pockets of their budgets throughout the summer. Those fares of 400 euros per passenger for one way on a Rome or Milan route to and from Sardinia still sound like a joke. Gold tickets without any control, "imposed" in the period of maximum demand, as if moving to the island were only a luxury for a few "rich" and not a territorial continuity service.
A well-known discrimination since the beginning of this "new" territorial continuity: the contract provided for "fair" rates only for residents, while for non-residents, for example emigrants and tourists, one thousand and one night tickets were provided, brakeless. Two conditions which, according to an elementary reasoning of a public nature, regardless of the damage to the economy due to those out-of-control tariffs, should have compensated for any economic contractions of the market in the post-summer period. In practice, that high income in the summer should have served to compensate for any lower income in the rest of the year. The companies, on the other hand, devoured "the summer pulp" to the full jaw and "terminated" the contract only when it was theoretically possible to configure a lower income. What is certain is that if in the contract signed by the Region such a bold step had been envisaged on the contractual level, it would only remain to take note of the umpteenth gift to the airlines.
Watch or act
If on the one hand the question of the feasibility of the unilateral termination jars, the theme adopted to justify the decision is even more inexplicable. Both companies have, in fact, motivated the farewell due to an "alleged" increase in the cost of fuel. The issue is delicate, if only because the energy game is more speculative than concrete. The Region will not be able to stand by and watch. It will not be difficult, for example, to trace the justifications with which Volotea had renounced 40% of public incentives on some routes. It was Ita, in court, who argued, with the hatred of the millionaire dispute, that those routes could not be done without adequate economic compensation.
Face up cards
Volotea uncovered the cards, in order to unmask those contributions lavished in the past years: our company, for example, - the Spaniards declared to the TAR - has ten-year contracts for the purchase of fuel. A "milestone" response in the dispute between low cost companies and companies funded with public money. In short, the Iberian company declared that it did not fill up with fuel at the viale Elmas petrol station. With those ten-year contracts, jet fuel prices were rising that remained stable, without speculative interference. It is difficult to hypothesize that Ita itself has a reference "pump" close to Santa Gilla, capable of increasing its costs according to the speculation of the day. However, only as a reminder, without thinking badly, it is worth remembering the rule on commercial agreements: "When companies, instead of competing with each other, agree to coordinate their behavior on the market, they violate the legislation on competition. Cooperation between companies can have the object or effect of preventing, restricting or substantially distorting the game of competition ”. The Region now has two ways, not alternatives: to report to the Authority what is happening and to prepare any useful action so as not to fall into the "monopolist" grip. First of all by restoring the single tariff, the one that allowed the only concrete implementation of the principle of insularity.
Ten years of a single tariff
After almost ten of uninterrupted application of the single tariff, scheduled for at least nine months a year, from February 2013 until October 2021, after the parliament had introduced it with a unanimous vote, despite the contrary opinion of the Region itself, that provision was canceled without anyone ever contesting it, starting with Europe. The 2013 decree was explicit: tariff for all European citizens without any "discrimination". Introducing a differentiated tariff therefore means "discriminating" and violating the most elementary universal laws on the right to mobility. Finally, there is the issue of the alternative to the "blackmail" grip of companies.
With the public participation in Ita dead and buried, close to the sale to the Americans of Delta Airlines with Air France and the Certares fund, all that remains is the last possible way, that of direct in-house management of the public service of territorial continuity. The only company with public characteristics is the one headed by the Italian Post Office, the one that was Mistral Air, until recently also authorized to commercial flights for passengers. If there were a state that was truly attentive to island issues, and a region that was genuinely intent on reacting to the monopoly of airlines, an agreement between the public parties would be sufficient. There is no problem with planes and crews: the world is full of aircraft available for hire and there is no shortage of crews in Sardinia, those of Air Italy, grounded by the business of Qatar & company, are already on the runway. Discarding the hypothesis as not feasible a priori would mean accepting "voluntarily" the perennial blackmail of the skies. So much the Sardinians pay.