Italian traffic growth not being held back by Alitalia’s woes


Image: repairing alitalia

Alitalia is hoping foreign influence and talent can help turn around its fortunes in the same way that Ferrari’s racing fortunes were revived in the mid-1990s by Jean Todt (French), Michael Schumacher (German) and Ross Brawn (British). Air France/KLM is currently favourite to help get Alitalia back to winning ways but Air One has not yet given up hope of getting involved.

Despite the ongoing soap opera that may (or may not) soon determine the future of Alitalia, Italy’s airport’s reported impressive 10% growth in 2007. This is the fastest rate of growth since 2000, when traffic grew by 12%.

CHT Italy 1999-2007

Source: Assaeroporti

Passenger numbers have grown by almost 50% at Italy’s airports since 2002. However, domestic traffic has grown by just 24% during this period, while international traffic, stimulated by the growing presence of low-cost carriers, has grown three times faster at 72%. In 2002, domestic passenger numbers at Italy’s airports were similar to the number of international passengers, but now there are 40% more international passengers.

Airport growth rates vary considerably in 2007

Logo: RomeA look at individual airports in 2007 shows that Italy has 21 airports which handled over one million passengers and a further eight that handled between a quarter of a million and one million passengers. The top 10 airports are ranked below:

Airport Domestic Passengers (m) International Passengers (m) Total Passengers (m)
Rome Fiumicino 13.456 19.024 32.945
Milan Malpensa 3.089 20.628 23.885
Milan Linate 7.396 2.529 9.927
Venice 2.009 5.024 7.059
Catania 4.731 1.315 6.080
Naples 3.202 2.518 5.761
Milan Bergamo 0.848 4.873 5.737
Rome Ciampino 0.542 4.808 5.352
Palermo 3.515 0.969 4.508
Bologna 1.446 2.807 4.354
Source: Assaeroporti

Logo: MilanMilan Malpensa is currently the busiest airport for international flights, but this is likely to change when Alitalia drops a raft of routes this summer from the airport as it ditches its dual-hub strategy to focus on Rome. Nearly all of Italy’s 21 biggest airports reported growth in 2007, the exception being Olbia on the island of Sardinia where traffic declined 2% last year.

CHT growth 2007

Source: Assaeroporti

Image: Ryanair poster
Ryanair is promoting its Naples services in the Italian press as a way of escaping the piles of rubbish that have come to symbolise the city in recent months, since its waste disposal system ground to a halt. The advert reads: ‘Pay the taxes! Not for waste (disposal) but to escape.’

The fastest growing airports in 2007 were Florence, Pisa, Alghero and Bari, which all reported traffic growth of over 20%. Both of Rome’s airports grew by 9%, though Ciampino’s growth was held back after local authorities decided to impose a movement limit at the airport, a decision that Ryanair claimed was politically motivated to reduce competition with Alitalia at Fiumicino. While Milan Malpensa and Bergamo grew by almost 10%, Milan Linate grew by just over 2%. Despite this, to the bewilderment of many, Linate managed to pick up an OAG Airport Marketing Award at last year’s Routes conference.

Alitalia dominant in Rome and Milan, but nowhere else

Though Alitalia has around a 40% share of capacity at the top three airports, at other airports a number of different airlines offer the most seats.

CHT IT top 15 apt share

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 2008

Ryanair is the biggest carrier at Milan Bergamo, Rome Ciampino and Pisa, where it has more than 50% of capacity at each airport. Air One is the largest carrier in Bari, Naples and Turin, while Meridiana is the leading airline at Bologna, Cagliari and Verona. Windjet is number one in Catania.

Alitalia still has one-third of domestic market, but only one-sixth of international market

Logo: MeridianaAccording to OAG data (for week commencing 18 February 2008) Alitalia is still the leading airline in the domestic market with around 34% of flights and seats. Potential suitor Air One has a 24% share of capacity, while Meridiana has an 11% share. Then come five LCCs led by Windjet with 7.5% of the market, Ryanair (3.9%), MyAir (3.3%), easyJet (2.5%) and Volareweb (2.1%).

On international routes Alitalia’s available seat capacity is rapidly being caught by Ryanair. While the flag-carrier currently has an 18% share of the market, Ryanair, which operates from over 20 airports in Italy and has bases in Milan (six aircraft), Pisa (three aircraft) and Rome (five aircraft), has over 15% and is gaining rapidly. Lufthansa (7.4%), easyJet (6.1%) and Air France (5.0%) are the only other carriers with at least a five percent share of the market. LCCs now have an estimated 38% of capacity on international scheduled routes into and out of Italian airports.

Germany is top international market

Four countries dominate international traffic flows to and from Italy. Germany just beats Spain, the UK and France, with all other country markets much smaller.

Country Frequency Share Capacity Share
Germany 18.8% 15.2%
Spain 12.3% 13.7%
UK 11.0% 12.9%
France 13.8% 12.3%
Netherlands 3.8% 3.6%
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 18 February 2008

In the German market capacity is dominated by Lufthansa followed by Ryanair, TUIfly, Air Berlin and then Alitalia, which has less than 10% of the market. On routes to and from Spain Ryanair is the leading carrier followed by Iberia, Vueling, Alitalia, Click Air and easyJet. In the highly competitive UK market Ryanair again leads the way with 40% of the market, followed by British Airways, easyJet and Alitalia. Only in the French market are the two leading carriers the national flag-carriers, with Air France ahead of Alitalia, followed by easyJet, Ryanair and MyAir.

The leading non-European countries are the US (7th, 2.9% seat share), Russia (13th, 1.4%) and Morocco (16th, 1.2%).

Local LCCs following different business models

Italy has a range of home-grown LCCs. Volareweb, operating a fleet of A320s, was at one time Europe’s third largest LCC until it collapsed in November 2004. It was reborn in 2005 and has been a niche carrier at Milan Linate until this winter when it embarked on a major expansion programme from Milan Malpensa under Alitalia’s guidance.

Image: MyAirMyAir, which also started out operating only A320s, is now ‘doing a JetBlue’ and combining A320 operations with smaller jets, in this case Bombardier CRJ900s. Windjet mixes charter flights with primarily scheduled domestic flights from Sicily (Catania and Palermo) to the Italian mainland. Blu-Express, a subsidiary of charter airline Blue Panorama, operates mostly domestic services from Rome Fiumicino.

Nearly all of these carriers have kept well away from attempting to enter the highly competitive UK or German markets, which consist mainly of in-bound leisure passengers, as these are dominated by LCCs based in those countries or the local flag-carriers. However, Volareweb did start serving Manchester from Milan Malpensa at the start of the winter season with five planned weekly flights in direct competition with Flybe, but the route was terminated in a matter of weeks.


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