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Ryanair urges EU to force Alitalia slot disposals - letter

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Ryanair Chief Executive Michael O'Leary attends the Europe Aviation Summit in Brussels
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PARIS (Reuters) - Ryanair has urged the EU to require a relaunched Alitalia to bid competitively for the bankrupt Italian airline's airport slots, according to a letter from the low-cost carrier's Chief Executive Michael O'Leary seen by Reuters.

In the May 28 letter, O'Leary urged European Competition Commissioner Margrethe Vestager to order a "market-based disposal" of Alitalia's take-off and landing rights at Milan-Linate and Rome-Fiumicino.

The Italian industry ministry declined to comment. Ryanair did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

The European Union competition watchdog is reviewing past and present Italian state aid to Alitalia and its planned successor airline, dubbed ITA, with a decision expected in coming days or weeks. Ryanair has made no secret of its interest in picking up Alitalia slots.

Brussels is pressing for measures to ensure a clean break between the two businesses and mitigate the aid's anti-competitive effects. But Italian officials and executives are counting on the relaunched airline's access to Alitalia slots.

ITA should not simply receive Alitalia's airport rights while simultaneously benefiting from traffic incentives designed for "new entrants", the Ryanair boss said in his letter.

Ryanair is calling for Alitalia slots to be sold off in a competitive tender or returned for redistribution under established aviation industry practices.

"If there is true economic discontinuity between the 'old' and 'new' Alitalia, then the 'new' Alitalia must not automatically inherit the slots," O'Leary told the Commissioner. "Yet the Italian authorities take it for granted that you will allow such a straightforward transfer."

(Reporting by Laurence Frost; Additional reporting by Angelo Amante in Rome and Conor Humphries in Dublin; Editing by Christina Fincher)

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