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Milan Malpensa welcomes over 50 airlines this winter; easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air account for 60% of seats

Milan’s busiest airport is located around 50 kilometres northwest of the centre of the city. Much of the current infrastructure dates from the late 90s when the previously modest sized airport was developed to be a potential major hub. As a result, passenger numbers jumped from 3.5 million in 1997 to over 20 million in 2000. With two parallel runways, the airport has been able to expand rapidly, and passenger numbers reached almost 29 million in 2019, when the airport ranked as Europe’s 22nd busiest according to ACI Europe. However, the airport’s high rate of growth in 2019 owes a lot to the fact that Milan LIN was closed for three months in the second half of the year and many flights were redirected to Malpensa during that period.

Milan Malpensa Traffic 1994-2020

Alitalia drives initial rapid growth

However, the airport’s growth has not been straightforward. Flag-carrier Alitalia, which had driven the airport’s initial rapid growth and had made the airport its primary base (replacing Rome FCO), significantly cut its operations at the airport in 2009. In 2019 it was still the airport’s second busiest carrier (after easyJet) in terms of flights. However, right now it has no services at the airport as all Alitalia flights are currently set to end on 14 October. According to the airport, Alitalia’s successor, currently called ITA, hopes to launch non-stop service to New York as soon as possible. Other Italian carriers, such as Air Italy and Volareweb, have been and gone, while Lufthansa Italia lasted from the beginning of 2009 to the end of October 2011. Local carriers Blue Panorama and Neos remain at the airport but have only modest operations.

The latest data for 2021 shows that in August the airport handled 1.46 million passengers, which is down 57% compared with August 2019. This ranks it as Europe’s 23rd busiest airport. While demand is gradually recovering, the airport is taking the opportunity to resurface one of its two main runways.

Milan Malpensa traffic 2017 - 2021

(U)LCCs now dominate at Malpensa

easyJet made Malpensa a base in March 2006, having launched flights to the airport from Berlin and London in 2005. The carrier has operated flights to over 80 destinations in the last 15 years and in 2019 Malpensa was its fourth biggest base after London LGW, Berlin TXL and Geneva. Ryanair had chosen to focus its presence in the Milan region at Bergamo, but in December 2015 it finally began flying from Malpensa as well. Since then, it has offered flights to around 35 destinations and is now the airport’s second biggest carrier.

Shannon AIrport

Similarly, Wizz Air had initially been more interested in serving Bergamo rather than Malpensa. As part of its network realignment during the pandemic it made Malpensa a base in July 2020 and has added more new routes in 2021. According to the airline’s website it now offers flights to 45 destinations from Malpensa, with some of these services set to start later this year.

Over 50 airlines currently serving Malpensa

These three carriers alone account for around 60% of the airport’s seat capacity in September 2021 according to analysis of Cirium Data and Analytics schedule information. The remaining 40% is spread across almost 50 other airlines. Other LCCs present include Eurowings and Vueling. However, the majority of the remaining airlines present are flag-carriers from across Europe and North Africa. These include Aegean Airlines, Aeroflot, Air France, British Airways, Brussels Airlines, EGYPTAIR, KLM, LOT, Lufthansa, Luxair, Royal Air Maroc, SAS, SWISS, TAP Portugal, Turkish Airlines and Ukraine International Airlines. All three Middle East hub carriers (Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways) also serve Malpensa, as do the three global US airlines (American and Delta serving JFK, and United serving Newark).

Top 14 airlines at Milan Malpensa

Between now and the end of the year, the majority of new services (as opposed to resumed services) will be started by either Ryanair or Wizz Air. One exception is Eurowings, which plans to begin service from its upcoming Prague base at the end of October.

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Europe’s three leading (U)LCCs (easyJet, Ryanair and Wizz Air) are also the three leading airlines at Malpensa. Between them they currently account for around 60% of all passenger flights at the airport.


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