Italy's cash-strapped budget airline Windjet halts flights
Tip News - 2012/08/12       A+ A-

Italy's beleaguered budget airline Windjet stopped operations Sunday as aviation authority ENAC appeared set to revoke its operating licence, stranding passengers overnight at Rome's Fiumicino airport.

The carrier formally stopped all flights at midnight, and ENAC was set to take action later Sunday for "evident incapacity", local media reports said.

ENAC said Windjet had about 300,000 bookings through October.

About 200 Tel Aviv-bound passengers who spent the night at the airport after their flight was cancelled Saturday evening were finally able to depart Sunday afternoon for an extra 50 euros ($60) thanks to a special charter flight by Mistral Air, which operates flights for the Italian postal service.

ENAC said Saturday it had set up a crisis centre to enable other airlines, including Alitalia, Meridiana and Blu Panorama, to take over Windjet's services, at a small extra cost for passengers.

Alitalia and Meridiana said they were planning extra flights between Sicily and major cities including Rome, Turin, Milan, Verona and Bologna.

Since Friday, Windjet flights have suffered cancellations and delays as the company has struggled to stay aloft after takeover talks with Italian flag-carrier Alitalia broke down.

Alitalia walked out of the negotiations begun several months ago after Windjet boss Stefano Rantuccio accused it of trying to impose unfavourable conditions on his company.

Alitalia charged that Windjet clearly had no intention of respecting provisional agreements aimed at saving the budget operator.

A passenger said in a complaint that he had to shell out 250 euros per ticket for a return flight on Alitalia from Russia for his wife, two daughters and mother-in-law, the ANSA news agency reported Sunday.

A national consumers' forum has also slammed the additional 80 euros charged on average to convert domestic tickets to other airlines.

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