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Rome Fiumicino sees Ryanair and Wizz Air drive network growth as ITA Airways starts flying

Rome Air Service One

In 2019, Italy’s Rome Fiumicino Airport ranked as Europe’s 11th busiest airport, handling 43.4 million passengers. Since 2000 total traffic had grown by 68% but there was a significant difference between domestic and international demand. While developments in the national high-speed rail network had contributed to domestic air travel falling by 11%, international passengers had grown by more than 140%. The on-going issues surrounding Alitalia notwithstanding, many foreign carriers were keen to offer Rome as part of their route network. Last year traffic fell by 78% as a result of the pandemic.

Rome FCO traffic 2000-2020

In the peak months of July and August, Rome Fiumicino handled close to 4.5 million passengers per month in 2019. Last year saw the airport fail to reach one million passengers in any month. However, in August and September of this year, demand exceeded 1.5 million passengers, with the airport ranking 20th in September among European airports. The airport’s seasonality profile is very consistent as can be seen in the graph.

Rome FCO traffic 2017 - 2021

Ryanair closing in on ITA Airways

As the busiest airport in Italy, the country’s flag-carrier is, not surprisingly, the airport’s leading airline. That role has now been handed over from Alitalia to ITA Airways. The new airline still uses Alitalia’s IATA code of AZ and many of its fleet of Airbus aircraft. However, whereas Alitalia was for many years by far the airport’s leading carrier, Ryanair has been developing significantly at the airport. While ITA Airways offers over 310,000 departing seats from the airport in November, Ryanair is offering over 210,000.

The third busiest carrier at the airport is now Wizz Air, which opened a four aircraft base at Fiumicino in July and has increased capacity by over 150% compared with pre-pandemic November 2019. The fourth biggest carrier, Volotea, is a new carrier at the airport, having been awarded the contract (until May 2022) for serving the three Sardinian airports of Alghero, Cagliari and Olbia. It only began operating from Fiumicino on 15 October.

Flyr, Sky Express, Volotea new in 2021

Although it has been a tough year for all airports, Rome has welcomed three significant new airlines in 2021. Norway’s new carrier Flyr began Oslo service in mid-October with its 737-800s, while Greek carrier Sky Express started Athens flights in July using its A320neos. The Greek capital is now served by four carriers with Ryanair joining in at the start of the winter 2021/22 season to provide Aegean Airlines, ITA Airways and Sky Express with additional competition. As mentioned earlier Volotea stepped in to replace Alitalia on the three Sardinian routes.

Top 15 airlines at Rome FCO in November 2021

Spain and France top country rankings

Looking at seat capacity planned in November by destination country, the leading international markets are Spain, France and Germany, all of which are down between 25% and 35% compared with November 2019. The leading non-European countries are the US, Israel and the UAE, all three of which are still showing a reduction in capacity of between 50% and 65%. However, a couple of the top 15 country markets are reporting growth compared with 2019. Thanks to new Ryanair services to Billund and Copenhagen, the Danish market is up 77%, while the almost 50% increase in seats to Romania from the airport can be attributed primarily to Wizz Air now operating to several destinations in the country from Rome FCO, having previously operated them from Rome CIA.

Top 15 international countries from Rome FCO

Long-haul and domestic networks impacted

The pandemic has particularly impacted long-haul traffic, especially to Asia, and at the start of the winter season Rome has currently lost over 30 long-haul routes that were served in November 2019. In addition, there are also no longer domestic routes to Florence, Milan BGY, Milan MXP and Pisa. These routes were all previously served by Alitalia. The Florence and Pisa routes are around 250 kilometres, while the Milan routes are around 500 kilometres. High speed rail connects Rome and Florence in under two hours and Milan in just over three hours, so it will be interesting to see if these domestic routes resume once long-haul operations pick up, hopefully in 2022.

On a positive note, Rome FCO now has non-stop service to several destinations that were not served in November 2019. These include Billund (with Ryanair), Eindhoven (Ryanair and Wizz Air), Fuerteventura (Ryanair and Wizz Air), Liverpool (Ryanair), Paris BVA (Ryanair), Porto (Ryanair), Reykjavik (Wizz Air), Santander (Ryanair), Tallinn (Wizz Air) and Zagreb (Ryanair). By next March, several long-haul services should have resumed and there will also be new/resumed services to Aqaba (Wizz Air), Marrakech (Wizz Air), Pristina (Wizz Air), Toulouse (Vueling) and several destinations in the UK.

Having recently convened in Milan for World Routes, airline and airport network planners and schedulers will be meeting again in Rome when the city hosts the 149th IATA Slot Conference at the Marriott Park Hotel from 16-19 November.

Follow the Air Service One coverage before, during and beyond the event.