Alitalia releases summer season slots at Malpensa UPDATE

Milan (Thomson Financial) - Alitalia SpA, Italy's largest airline, will sell slots that it will not use at Milan's Malpensa airport this summer season, which runs from March 30 to Oct 25, the company said in a statement late yesterday.

The slot release is part of Alitalia's plans to downscale its presence at Malpensa to focus on Rome's Fiumicino airport, which has prompted criticism from north Italian politicians.

Malpensa airport's operator SEA is considering suing the airline for damages over the cuts at Malpensa, daily La Stampa said, citing SEA chairman Giuseppe Bonomi.

Il Sole 24 Ore said, without citing sources, that SEA could seek 1 bln eur damages.

La Stampa also said that Alitalia has cancelled the presentation of its flights summer schedule, which was due today.

Separately, the economy ministry said it has welcomed the airline's decision not to postpone the slot release beyond a Jan 31 deadline.

The ministry said a postponement would have been "incompatible" with Alitalia's difficult situation and its exclusive talks with Air France-KLM.

It would have also exposed the company to legal actions by other airlines interested in the slots, it added.

The loss-making airline is in exclusive talks for a link-up with Air France-KLM, which was chosen as the preferred bidder for the government's 49.9 pct stake.

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