Bergamo looks beyond LCC core to build on record 2016 network platform

Bergamo's Orio al Serio International Airport, or Il Caravaggio International Airport as it is alternatively known, has been a popular Milan alternative gateway for low-cost carriers. However, it is now developing a market in its own right and attracting a wide range of airlines.

Regularly marketed as Milan Bergamo Airport,  Bergamo's Orio al Serio International Airport witnessed another year of robust growth throughout 2016, welcoming close to one million more passengers than the year before. Experiencing 7.2 per cent passenger traffic growth, it was Italy’s third busiest airport last year, handling over 11.1 million passengers – a new record for the facility.

Crediting the surge to the addition of 19 new routes throughout 2016, increased load factors on scheduled flights, as well as providing one of the best punctuality records throughout similar-sized airports worldwide, the Italian airport was connected to 114 destinations across 33 countries last year.

While Bergamo remains Ryanair’s largest Italian base, the northern Italian airport is set to kick-start 2017 by increasing the diversity of carriers at the airport away from its traditional low-cost carrier core. In addition to hybrid Romanian carrier Blue Air launching a four times weekly link to Liverpool, and the resumption of its flights to Constanta Airport, Italy’s Meridiana will be restarting its summer flights to Olbia. Milan Bergamo will also welcome new scheduled carrier Arkia Airlines’ twice-weekly service to Tel Aviv in May, broadening the range of airline business models at the airport.

Last summer saw Ryanair offer almost 600 weekly departures from Bergamo, and this year it is continuing to support the airport’s route network development with the launch of another five new connections: Vigo; Edinburgh; Luxembourg; Bordeaux; and also adding a four times daily service to Naples, increasing the airport’s choice of links across Italy and all over Europe. Meanwhile, Wizz Air will launch its twice-weekly service to Varna in July, the Italian airport’s second link to Bulgaria and the ULCC’s 16th route from the gateway.

Ending the year with a positive upturn in air cargo, Bergamo exceeded 117,000 tonnes, recording a 3.7 per cent growth in air cargo operations in December 2016. While the annual total throughput showed a slight decrease of 2.7 per cent, origin and destination freight was stable year-on-year, indicating the robustness of the local economy which will give the airport a good platform for cargo growth in 2017.

In order to cater for the sharp increase in demand, SACBO – Milan Bergamo’s operator – has invested over €150 million in the airport’s development since 2013. Following the extension of both the departures and arrivals concourses, the terminal surface has doubled in size, seeing the addition of a new check-in area, baggage handling systems, boarding gates and more security checkpoints, as well as a refurbished retail area including 14 new shops and a new food court. 

“Having just experienced our busiest year ever, we’re looking forward to another year of development and growth at Milan Bergamo," said Emilio Bellingardi, general director, SACBO. "We are positive that we will be able to add more announcements in the coming months and, with our huge investment in the future, all passengers travelling from our airport can not only benefit from our broader route network and an increasingly diverse range of airlines, but also enjoy a practical airport with modern facilities.”

Schedule data from intelligence provider OAG shows the high penetration of low-cost operations at Bergamo, which exceeds the 95 per cent level.  Actively seeking to broaden the diversity of carriers at the airport away from its traditional low-cost carrier core will likely see this level fall slightly in 2017 - it has already fallen 0.86 percentage points over the past two years.