The announcement earlier this week that Lufthansa plans close its Milan Malpensa base at the end of the current summer season will be regarded as good news by the senior management teams at Alitalia and easyJet. Lufthansa began non-German operations at the airport in February 2009 with a separate Lufthansa Italia branded operation, using six A319s. Since then, it has launched 21 routes to non-German destinations (Lufthansa also serves Malpensa from Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart with German based aircraft), although as the table below shows, no more than 15 destinations were served at any one time.
The Brussels route was particularly short-lived (it ended on 27 June, less than four months after starting), while Rome services were scrapped in February 2010. Some of the London Heathrow flights were operated by A319s from bmi’s fleet. Two seasonal routes to Catania and Palma de Mallorca are still scheduled to start in July.
easyJet competes (or has competed) on 17 of the 21 routes Lufthansa Italia has operated, while AirOne / Alitalia have been competing on eight of the routes. Other airlines set to benefit to a much smaller extent are Air France, British Airways, Czech Airlines, Iberia, LOT, Malev, TAP Portugal, Vueling and Wind Jet.
What they said
Lufthansa’s CEO and Chairman Christoph Franz explained in a statement: “When we launched Lufthansa Italia three years ago, we filled a gap that had emerged in Milan following Alitalia’s withdrawal from Malpensa and the end of our cooperation with Air One. Our service is highly appreciated and the response from passengers in Italy is excellent. However, given the slump in prices on European routes and the competition, it was extremely difficult to establish a profitable European network under a separate brand. It therefore makes sense to focus the Lufthansa Group’s offering on connecting the Italian market to the Group’s hubs.”
Lufthansa Executive Board member Carsten Spohr, who is responsible for Lufthansa’s passenger business, commented: “We are the most successful foreign airline in Italy and we want to consolidate our position. By shifting capacities from Lufthansa Italia to our core brand Lufthansa and strengthening Air Dolomiti, we will be able to offer our customers an even higher quality network of services via our hubs. The link between ‘Lufthansa’ and ‘Italia’ will remain as close as it has been up to now.” Michael Kraus, CEO and President of Air Dolomiti, will be responsible for realigning Lufthansa’s and Air Dolomiti’s presence in the North Italian market.
What happens this winter?
The A319s will be redeployed elsewhere in the Lufthansa group of airlines (maybe to expand germanwings’ Berlin base before BBI opens next summer?), while Air Dolomiti’s network of routes from Northern Italy to Lufthansa’s Munich base will apparently see frequency increases and possibly some new routes.