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Italian Flag Carrier to Leave Milan’s Malpensa Airport After 75 Years

ITA Airways to discontinue its Milan-New York flight in January, which was the airline's last remaining flight from Malpensa

An ITA Airways Airbus A330-200 at Rome Fiumicino Airport. (Photo: ITA Airways)

On Jan. 8, 2024, a long chapter in the history of Italian commercial aviation will come to a close. At 10.45 a.m. local time flight AZ 605 will land at Milan Malpensa Airport arriving from New York’s JFK airport marking the last service to be operated by Italian flag carrier ITA Airways at Malpensa Airport for the foreseeable future.

ITA Airways was created in October 2021 from the ashes of Alitalia, the historic Italian flag carrier which in the past 25 years has gone from bankruptcy to bankruptcy until its final demise followed by a rebirth under a different name. Under its various names, the carrier had maintained a presence at Malpensa Airport since the beginning of commercial operations in 1948 until October 2020, when the last remaining flight to Rome Fiumicino was suspended and no other services were being operated from the airport.

As mentioned, at the end of 2021 Alitalia was replaced by ITA Airways and, following the removal of COVID-related restrictions to entry into the U.S. for European citizens, the flag carrier restarted its service to New York-JFK, resuming the only long-haul flight operated outside its main hub at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport.

A former Alitalia 777 aircraft in storage (Photo: AirlineGeeks | William Derrickson)

In 2000, Alitalia moved most of its flight operations to Malpensa, making it its main hub following the opening of a brand-new terminal building. However, most of the crew and personnel remained based in Rome, adding unnecessary costs and complexity to the move which was eventually rolled back just ten years later with all flights reverting once again to Fiumicino.

Seven Carriers Compete on the Route

The flight between Malpensa and New York operated by ITA Airways with an Airbus A330-200 was facing heavy competition in one of the most contested long-haul routes in Europe. The city pair is currently served by six other airlines: all the U.S. megacarriers are active on the market, with American Airlines and Delta Air Lines serving New York-JFK while United Airlines is operating from its Newark hub.

In addition, Emirates is also a competitor with its Dubai-Milan-New York service operated with a Boeing 777-300ER aircraft. In June 2021, Italian leisure carrier Neos threw its hat into the ring with a twice-weekly service operated with a Boeing 787-9. French carrier La Compagnie connects Malpensa with Newark five times a week with a 76-seat Airbus A321neo in an all-business class configuration.

Although no official confirmation has been issued by ITA Airways, it is believed the Milan-New York service is the worst-performing flight of its long-haul network as it needs to be operated on a pure point-to-point basis since there are no feeder flights at either side of the route and ITA’s reservation system is not even proposing itineraries involving flights into Milan’s other airport, Linate.

Focus on Linate

ITA Airways maintains a large presence at Linate, which is unable to accommodate intercontinental services due to a short runway and a perimeter rule preventing flights longer than 1,500 kilometers (approximately 810 nautical miles). Linate is capacity-constrained, with traffic artificially restricted at 18 movements per hour, but ITA Airways holds approximately 70% of landing and takeoff slots at the airport which has been selected as a focus city in Northern Italy.

With its convenient location only eight kilometers (five miles) away from Milan’s business district, Linate is ideal for short-haul flights to European destinations, while Malpensa Airport is located almost 50 kilometers from the city and can be reached only with a one-hour trip by car or train.

Vanni Gibertini

Author

  • Vanni Gibertini

    Vanni fell in love with commercial aviation during his undergraduate studies in Statistics at the University of Bologna, when he prepared his thesis on the effects of deregulation on the U.S. and European aviation markets. Then he pursued his passion further by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University in the U.K. followed by holding several management positions at various start-up carriers in Europe (Jet2, SkyEurope, Silverjet). After moving to Canada, he was Business Development Manager for IATA for nine years before turning to his other passion: sports writing.

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