Italian court bars Emirates from flying key route

An Emirates Airbus A380 lands on the runway at Manchester Airport at Manchester Airport, northern England June 25, 2013. REUTERS/Phil Noble

ROME (Reuters) - An Italian court has ruled that Emirates cannot operate flights directly between Milan Malpensa airport and New York, upholding a legal challenge brought against the Gulf airline by the Italian carrier association Assaereo.

Assaereo, whose biggest member is domestic flagship airline Alitalia , had complained that Italy's civil aviation authority ENAC had granted Emirates the right to extend flights from Dubai to Malpensa onwards to New York's John F Kennedy airport.

According to the court, Assaereo said in a statement on Thursday, the right to use Milan as a stopover cannot be granted to a non-EU operator or a carrier from a country which is neither the port of departure nor destination, which in this case are Italy and the United States.

Emirates is a direct competitor of Etihad, which is in talks with Alitalia for the possible purchase of a large stake in the loss-making Italian carrier.

Etihad, which may appeal the decision, started to fly the Malensa-New York route in October last year.

(Reporting by Lisa Jucca; Editing by Elaine Hardcastle and Anthony Barker)

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