Milan Linate sees significant (U)LCC growth this year as slot rules relaxed; Alitalia still #1 for now
During the last couple of years, some €40m Euros has been spent on refurbishing Milan Linate Airport. In 2019 the airport was completely closed for three months while the runway was rebuilt and since then there have been major improvements to the airport’s only terminal building, creating a brighter and more open environment for passengers. The airport lies just seven kilometres east of the city centre, making it the most convenient airport for Milan’s population and visitors.
However, since the redevelopment of Malpensa into a major airport, Linate’s capacity has been restricted by various movement limits, as well as limiting destinations that can be served to just domestic routes or airports in the EU. The movement limit is currently set at 18 per hour (excluding PSO routes), while flights to the UK (which is no longer in the EU) are still permitted, at least until October 2022. Not surprisingly, this has resulted in the airport’s passenger throughput being quite stable, with annual passenger demand fluctuating between eight and ten million from 2003 to 2018. In 1997, before the revamped Malpensa became operational, the airport had handled over 14 million passengers.
In August, Linate welcomed over 500,000 passengers in a month, the most it has handled since the pandemic began. That represents a drop of 33% compared with August 2018. In July, traffic had been down 46% compared with the same month in 2018, showing that the airport’s recovery is now well under way.
Alitalia still has over half of all Linate flights
Alitalia (and likely its successor ITA) remains the dominant carrier at the airport. In 2019, the last calendar year before the pandemic, the Italian flag-carrier accounted for over two-thirds of flights and over 60% of scheduled seat capacity. Despite the airline’s well-publicised issues since then, Cirium Data and Analytics figures indicate that this September Alitalia still operated over half of all flights at Linate. With almost 50 departures per day the airline was serving 17 destinations, of which 13 are in Italy. The four international routes are to Amsterdam, Brussels, London LHR and Paris ORY. Among the domestic routes, Cagliari is served with up to nine daily flights while Rome FCO is served eight times daily on weekdays. ITA is set to take over from Alitalia on 15 October, though how smooth the transition will be remains to be seen.
easyJet was the second biggest carrier at Linate this summer and was offering flights to six destinations in September. There were domestic routes to Brindisi, Catania and Palermo as well as international routes to Amsterdam, Paris CDG and Paris Orly. Brindisi flights, launched on 19 July, ended on 27 September, while Catania and Palermo services (both launched on 11 June) cease on 30 October. However, London Gatwick service is set to resume on 31 October.
Blue Air and Wizz Air take advantage of slot rules relaxation
According to the airport, ITA will be allowed to take 85% of Alitalia’s Linate slots with the remaining 15% being returned to the slot co-ordinator, Assoclearance. With the slot rules having already been relaxed during the pandemic, some airlines have taken the opportunity to establish a greater presence at Linate. The best example of this is Romanian carrier Blue Air, which until this summer had only served Linate from its home base in Bucharest. However, in August the carrier added new service to Barcelona, Catania and Paris CDG and followed this up in September with new routes to Lamezia Terme, Madrid, Palermo and Prague. As a result, in October it will be the airport’s second busiest airline (by flights) pushing easyJet into third place.
Wizz Air has also been actively developing its presence at the airport. This summer it has launched three domestic routes to Bari (1 July), Brindisi (3 July) and Naples (30 July). Bari and Naples are both operated with up to two daily flights while Brindisi is currently served five times weekly. Volotea also took advantage of the slot rules to operate low frequency domestic routes during the peak summer period to Brindisi (weekly), Catania (4-weekly), Lamezia Terme (2-weekly), Lampedusa (2-weekly) and Pantelleria (2-weekly). Finally, Vueling shifted its 3-daily Barcelona service from Malpensa to Linate on 26 September, with the service staying at the airport at least until the end of October.
Compared with summer 2019, the airport has seen Barcelona (Blue Air and Vueling), Munich (Air Dolomiti), Prague (Blue Air) and Vienna (Austrian Airlines) added to its departure board. With the passenger experience at the airport considerably enhanced and the on-going uncertainty around ITA’s planned operations, it will be fascinating to see how Linate’s network offering evolves in the next 12 months. Stay tuned!