Rome Airports Eye Full Recovery, Hopeful Of China Return

Aeroporti di Roma CEO Marco Troncone said point-to-point traffic is back to 2019 levels but hub connectivity remains weaker.

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Marco Troncone, Aeroporti di Roma CEO.

Passenger traffic across Rome Fiumicino (FCO) and Ciampino (CIA) airports will be “very close” to pre-pandemic levels during the northern summer 2023 season, despite mounting fears of a recession, according to Aeroporti di Roma CEO Marco Troncone.

Speaking on the sidelines of GAD World 2022 in Amsterdam, he said that traffic across the two airports is back to about 80% of 2019 figures, boosted by strong short-haul European markets and inbound flows from the US and Canada.

Point-to-point traffic has already fully recovered, helped by the attractiveness of Rome as an international tourist destination, but transfer traffic remains down. Hub operations have been constrained by the slower ramp up of operations by Alitalia successor ITA Airways.

“We remain optimistic for next year despite the macro-economic scenario,” Troncone said. “Carriers are reporting stronger growth plans for summer 2023—and certain airlines will exceed their 2019 capacity. We may have a different airline mix during the season, but overall volumes will be very close to pre-COVID levels.”

Fiumicino and Ciampino collectively handled 3.6 million passengers in September—an increase of almost 89% year-on-year. In recent weeks, Aeroporti di Roma has been boosted by the news that United Airlines plans to offer daily nonstop flights to FCO from San Francisco (SFO) starting in May 2023, while the likes of Volotea, Ryanair and ITA Airways are expanding their networks from Rome next year.

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Troncone said that the group has also been encouraged by the gradual recovery of its Asia network. China Eastern Airlines commenced a weekly Wenzhou (WNZ)-Fiumicino service on Oct. 27, and China Southern Airlines plans to resume a weekly route between Guangzhou (CAN) and Fiumicino on Nov. 9.

“Hopefully these are signs that China could start to reopen further as its zero-COVID policy is probably untenable,” Troncone said. During summer 2019, OAG data shows that FCO was connected nonstop to nine destinations in mainland China, with about 19,300 two-way available seats. At the present time, the airport is linked to four points and about 3,400 two-way seats are available.

In October, Aeroporti di Roma executed a new €350 million ($341 million) sustainability-linked revolving credit facility, replacing a previous €250 million revolving credit facility signed in July 2016 and expiring in July 2023. The transaction is configured to strengthen the integration between sustainability goals and the company’s financial strategy. 

“In spite of the current challenges in the energy sector, our decarbonization commitment is becoming even more ambitious, increasing threefold the accessibility emissions (Scope 3) reduction goal, relying mainly on a future network of 5,400 recharging points for electric vehicles, the first ones already operational from September, and focusing on rail access, enhancing the partnership with Ferrovie dello Stato,” Troncone said.

The credit facility was provided by eight financial institutions: Banco BPM, Barclays, BNP-Paribas, Crédit Agricole CIB, Intesa Sanpaolo, Mediobanca, Natixis and Société Générale.