Italy sees domestic traffic up by 7% in August compared with 2019 while international demand is down 55%; Ryanair, Wizz Air growing
Italy welcomed almost 193 million passengers through its airports in 2019, making it Europe’s sixth busiest country for air traffic demand after the UK (300m), Spain (275m), Germany (248m), Turkey (209m) and France (201m). Last year traffic fell by 73% to just under 53m with pre-pandemic traffic in January and February accounting for 44% of the total. After a sluggish start to 2021 demand has increased significantly in recent months. In June traffic was still down 65% compared with the same month in 2019, but in July it was down 46% and in August just 36%.
Domestic traffic up 7% in August
The latest traffic data (for August 2021) shows that domestic traffic accounted for 6.55m passengers and international for 6.45m. Compared with August 2019, international traffic was down 55%, while domestic traffic was up 6.6% with many Italians clearly opting for a ‘staycation’ this summer.
While Rome FCO and Milan MXP remained Italy’s busiest airports there was considerable variation in terms of their demand recovery compared with August 2019. While Rome FCO (down 63%), Milan MXP and Venice VCE (both down 57%) have yet to recover half their traffic, demand at Brindisi was up 8% compared with two years ago while Olbia (down 1%), Palermo (down 4%), Catania (down 11%) and Cagliari (down 15%) proved that Sardinia and Sicily remained popular destinations. Note that Milan LIN was shut in August 2019 due to runway maintenance.
Ryanair now three times bigger than Alitalia
Looking at the leading airlines for scheduled seat capacity in September reveals that Ryanair was offering three times as many seats from Italian airports as Alitalia, and more than its four nearest rivals combined. Compared with August 2019, Ryanair has increased its capacity by 12% (or almost 73,000 additional departing seats) with Bari, Catania and Venice VCE seeing the biggest increase in seats.
Alitalia’s capacity fell by 52% compared with 2019. With Alitalia services set to end on 15 October it will be interesting to see what the network of its successor, currently called ITA, will look like, having already been forced to give up slots at key airports.
easyJet cut capacity significantly at Milan MXP and Venice VCE, but did launch its first ever flights from Milan BGY in late May to Olbia, followed by Amsterdam and Paris CDG in September. A new Gatwick service is set to begin at the end of the month. easyJet appears to have dropped Genoa from its network (at least for now) while Bologna’s only easyJet service (to London LGW) is not resuming until next March.
Wizz Air more than doubles Italian capacity
The busiest carrier in the Italian market since the start of the pandemic has been Wizz Air, which has increased capacity by more than 150%. It has established bases at Bari, Catania, Milan MXP, Naples, Palermo and Rome FCO and launched dozens of new routes, including domestic services, something Wizz Air seemed keen to avoid prior to the pandemic.
Another carrier which has behaved opportunistically in the Italian market is Romania’s Blue Air. While cutting capacity at what were its two busiest Italian airports (Turin and Rome FCO) it has started operating from Milan LIN, from where it has launched no fewer than eight routes in just a few weeks.
Albania capacity is up 44%
Capacity data for September shows that international seats were down 42%, but not all country markets have seen the same level of recovery. Among the top 15 country markets the recovery rate varies considerably. While the UK and USA are both still down over 60% and the major French and German markets are down over 40%, three country markets in the top 15 have recorded capacity growth since September 2019. Romania capacity is up 7% thanks to massive expansion by Ryanair, while Albania capacity is up 44% thanks to Wizz Air and also Air Albania. Finally, Morocco seats are up 11% thanks mostly to Royal Air Maroc and Wizz Air.