«We ask for 30 slots, with us flights will cost half»- Corriere.it

«We ask for 30 slots, with us flights will cost half»- Corriere.it


Wizz Air, one of Europe’s leading low cost airlines and third largest carrier in Italy, is preparing for the “race” for slots at Milan Linate which will be sold by Ita Airways and Lufthansa as a condition for their marriage. But unlike the other pretender easyJet, which for now is keeping the cards holed up, the airline founded in Hungary aims to obtain the maximum possible: 25-30 pairs of take-off and landing rights to place about ten aircraft, all Airbus A321neo , which would become the largest and most capacious at the Milan city airport. This is confirmed by the Courier the president of Wizz Air, Robert Carey. Which also anticipates how this investment will bring the average rates at «Forlanini» to fall by more than 50%.

The negotiations with the EU

Wizz Air’s move explains how tough the battle will be that Ita, the Italian government and Lufthansa will have to face in the EU Antitrust to get the go-ahead for German entry into the Italian carrier, initially at 41% and then rising to 100%. % in subsequent years and upon the occurrence of certain conditions. The same Economy Minister Giancarlo Giorgetti, speaking in the province of Varese, said that the Ita-Lufthansa agreement “still has many obstacles to overcome even in the context of European authorization”. Recently Carey was in Rome at the Ministry of Transport and Tourism and met the heads of the National Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC).

Market shares

According to the data provided to Courier from the specialized Ch-Aviation platform Wizz Air is the third company at Linate for seats offered: in the week 26 June-2 July it makes just over 5,000 seats available at departures, equal to 3.8%, after Ita (61.7 %) and easyJet (6.7%). The Hungarian low-cost carrier obtained three pairs of slots a day freed up during the transition from Alitalia to Italy. At first he used them to fly to Bari, Brindisi and Naples, but in recent months the routes are Naples and Catania.

A Wizz Air Airbus, bottom left, parked at Linate airport, while an easyJet plane heads towards the runway (photo by Leonard Berberi / Corriere)
A Wizz Air Airbus, bottom left, parked at Linate airport, while an easyJet plane heads towards the runway (photo by Leonard Berberi / Corriere)

The operation

“As for the slots at Milan’s city airport, everything is now in the hands of Brussels,” says Carey. «Together, ITA and Lufthansa have 65-67% there. Normally a quota higher than 50% is not allowed, but in this case ITA already has more than half of the slots in a congested airport». For this reason, you maintain, “at least Lufthansa should sell all its slots, about 5%, in order to give the go-ahead to the operation and allow for real competition at Linate”. “To be credible and have a significant share to counter ITA, you need to place at least 8-10 planes at Linate,” calculates the president of Wizz Air. And that is the goal of the low cost. These aircraft, however, would need «25-30 slots for departures», plus another 25-30 for arrivals, which would mean about a fifth of all take-off and landing rights at «Forlanini». Ita, for example, has 175.

The markets

Wizz Air would like to use the new slots “to introduce new routes, especially international ones: we see that there are 15-16 possible destinations from Linate to Europe, of these 10-12 are not served today”. The focus is on Spain (“which is a large market”), but also on “Germany, the United Kingdom, France, Eastern Europe such as Poland, Albania, Romania, Hungary”. «I was surprised when I discovered that from Linate there are no direct flights to Barcelona, ​​for example, nor to some Spanish beaches to be connected at least for the summer season, as well as for Portugal».

The aircraft

The low cost intends to carry out operations with the Airbus A321neo: “They are the largest we have and we would like to invest seriously: these aircraft are new and less polluting, they have 239 seats, more than the A319-A320 that easyJet uses”. “In an airport that is not clogged, when a traditional carrier raises the fares too much, at that point the low-cost carriers arrive and bring the prices down – continues Carey -. But this cannot be done at Linate, which no longer has free spaces: the fares remain structurally high because a competitor does not arrive».

The cost of tickets

Robert Carey, president of Wizz Air
Robert Carey, president of Wizz Air

The average fare of Linate this year is expected to be around 90 euros (one way), according to estimates by Courier. According to Carey, the expansion of Wizz Air in the Milan city airport would reduce the price of tickets by more than 50%. “Look what happened in Rome – he says -: when we entered Fiumicino airport our fares were half of the others. For this reason, at Linate I expect the drop to be greater because it is a clogged airport». “A premium airport can very well be a convenient airport,” she reasons.

The high speed

But if Wizz Air does not forget the connections within the country, the president already says that there will be no direct Linate-Fiumicino flight operated by the Hungarian low-cost airline. “I don’t think it makes sense to do so, we don’t operate routes where there is already a train that can connect the two cities in less than four hours, it doesn’t even make sense from a sustainability point of view.” From a commercial point of view, then “you don’t compete with high-speed trains over such short distances, I would never be able to stimulate demand”.

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