European low-fare carrier, easyJet, has announced plans to strengthen its strategy in the Italian market through expanding its existing bases in Milan and Naples and the opening of a new base in Venice from spring 2016. The airline plans to support this expansion by redeploying aircraft and crew from Rome Fiumicino, a base it says is delivering lower returns due to high airport charges.
easyJet will open the new base at Venice Marco Polo Airport from April 2016 with four Airbus aircraft stationed at the airport. The Italian city has for some time been a key network point for easyJet, having operated flights into and out of the city since 1998.
The airline has increased the number of passengers carried by an average rate of 15 per cent per year over the last five years and it currently flies to Venice from 15 primary airports across Europe - such as London Gatwick, Amsterdam and Paris Charles de Gaulle - and is already the largest airline at Marco Polo Airport.
As well as being a world famous tourist destination the region is Italy’s third largest economy and 28 per cent of easyJet's 1.6 million passengers on flights to and from Venice are travelling on business. This will be further enhanced when aircraft are based at the airport as business travellers will be able to benefit from early morning departures.
Milan Malpensa, already easyJet's second largest base with 18 aircraft, will receive three more from April 2016. This will strengthen easyJet’s existing status as the largest airline at Milan Malpensa and gives the airline a strong strategic position serving Italy’s richest metropolitan area of some nine million people with one of the country’s highest GDP.
Meanwhile, at its relatively new base at Naples International Airport a fourth aircraft will arrive from April 2016. easyJet only opened its base here in 2014, but is already established as the largest airline at the airport in southern Italy’s largest city and the third largest in the country.
Naples is a top European destination both for tourism - the city being listed a World Heritage Site by UNESCO - and for business with a wide network of more than 260,000 companies and 2.6 million business travellers flying from Naples every year, supporting easyJet’s business model well.
The growth at Milan, Naples and Venice will be achieved through the redeployment of assets currently stationed at Fiumicino – Leonardo da Vinci International Airport in the Italian capital, Rome. easyJet says this existing base is “delivering lower returns” than its other bases and that the new services and routes which will be operated as a result of this redeployment will “better match easyJet’s customers’ needs” and deliver “higher returns” for the airline.
The worsening performance of the Rome Fiumicino base has been driven by “high airport passenger charges”, which have more than doubled since 2012, and will be burdened by further “above inflation increases” in the coming years, according to easyJet. In addition, Rome Fiumicino airport provides “a poor passenger experience” which has led to “low levels of punctuality and customer satisfaction” which the recent capacity increases have exacerbated, the airline adds.
As a result of the redeployment easyJet will cease basing crew and aircraft at Rome Fiumicino from April 2016, but remains fully committed to the market. It will continue to fly around two million passengers to and from Rome Fiumicino next year out of its bases across its network.
"Italy is a key strategic country for easyJet and our plans for 2016 will expand our presence at Milan, Naples and Venice, where there are more opportunities for long term sustainable and profitable growth, while ensuring we continue to connect Rome Fiumicino with Europe in a way that best reflects passenger demand,” said Carolyn McCall, chief executive officer, easyJet.
"Milan, Naples and Venice are all centres of important Italian economic regions. Each has high levels of passenger demand from leisure as well as business passengers and all have demand for flights both into and out of Italy,” she added.
easyJet has grown steadily in Italy in recent years in terms of investment and jobs and will base 29 aircraft in the country next year, employing over 1,000 pilots, cabin crew and other staff and supporting thousands more direct and indirect jobs. "At a time when there are significant profitable growth opportunities for easyJet across Europe we are continuing to make a very significant investment in Italy,” added McCall.
easyJet will also be making some changes to its network in Spain through the introduction of a new base at Barcelona’s El Prat Airport in February 2016. Barcelona has always been a key network point for easyJet and the base opening consolidates easyJet's strong position at Barcelona carrying almost three million passengers a year to and from 14 airports across Europe.
It will station three Airbus aircraft in Catalonia and with based equipment the local business community will be able to benefit from earlier departures as well as an increased number of flights on existing routes connecting to primary airports in Europe such as London, Paris, Geneva and Milan.
Our analysis of OAG Schedules Analyser capacity data shows that easyJet has grown its departure seats from Italy over the ten million figure this year with capacity up 5.4 per cent on 2014, 31.1 per cent on 2010 and a huge 594.0 per cent on 2005. Its network now encompasses 17 points in Italy with approaching 63,000 annual departures from Italy through the calendar year, one every nine minutes, approximately.