LISBON (Reuters) – Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary on Tuesday called a “joke” the announcement that the competition authority had opened an investigation in Italy into the airline’s prices at low costs.

“It’s just Italian politics,” he said at a news conference in Lisbon, Portugal.

“You have a bunch of populists going around in circles in Italy (…) that’s what populist politicians do,” he added.

Ryanair and the Italian government are clashing over the issue of prices for domestic flights to the country’s main islands. Rome wants to try to limit the rise in prices during high seasons.

The investigation comes after Giorgia Meloni’s government had to backpedal in September on a proposed price cap for flights to the islands.

The Italian competition authority said its investigation would focus on the alleged negative impact of algorithms on prices and would examine how prices are communicated to the public.

Michael O’Leary denounced an investigation into algorithms on mobile phones while “nearly 60% of our flights are booked on computers”, he said.

(Catarina Demony; by Zhifan Liu, edited by Blandine Hénault)

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