On 29 October 2019 the Administrative Court of Lazio (the TAR) upheld Wizz Air's challenge and cancelled fines that had been imposed by the Italian Competition Authority (AGCM) for the airlines' hand baggage policy implemented on 1 November 2018.

The policy provided that only a 'small' piece of hand luggage (ie, up to 40cm x 30cm x 20cm) to be stored under the seat was allowed on board flights free of charge, while a fee had to be paid for larger pieces of hand luggage (ie, up to 55cm x 40cm x 23 cm).

The investigation undertaken by the AGCM, which led to the fine that the TAR cancelled, concerned Wizz Air's provision of allegedly misleading basic fare information to consumers on its website.

According to the AGCM, following the entry into force of Wizz Air's new hand baggage policy, a charge for bringing a trolley of standard dimensions on board was no longer included in the final ticket price. As a result, the AGCM found that the policy was:

  • capable of providing a false representation of actual ticket prices;
  • deceptive regarding the characteristics and price of air transport services offered to passengers; and
  • contrary to the standards of professional diligence.

Based on Wizz Air's arguments against the AGCM's decision, the TAR found that the AGCM had not qualified the airline's practice as unfair with regard to the how ticket prices were presented – rather, the issue raised concerned the qualification of hand baggage as an 'unavoidable and foreseeable item' to be included in the price of air transport services.

According to the TAR, the AGCM had failed to show that the airline had prevented passengers from bringing hand luggage on board. Instead, the policy imposed limits only on the size and not the weight of luggage in compliance with the European Court of Justice's decision in Vueling (C-487/12).

In the absence of a general tariff regulation setting out specific minimum requirements, the TAR held that Wizz Air could assess the size of hand baggage and charge a fee accordingly. The TAR also highlighted that the AGCM's decision contained no detailed comparison of other airlines' fares and those of Wizz Air for individual routes to see whether there were differences obliging consumers to make a specific choice.

Finally, the AGCM's claim that Wizz Air lacked professional diligence was found to be groundless, as the hand baggage policy communicated clearly the dimensions of hand luggage allowed. As a result, consumers were not required to perform complex calculations to gauge the final price of tickets, since they were fully illustrated alongside the cost of a second piece of larger carry-on luggage.

The TAR therefore upheld Wizz Air's challenge and annulled the fine imposed by the AGCM.

For further information on this topic please contact Laura Pierallini at Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati by telephone (+39 06 88 41 713) or email ([email protected]). The Studio Legale Pierallini e Associati website can be accessed at www.studiopierallini.it.