By Vanni Gibertini
A New Perimeter Rule for Milan’s Linate Airport
After over 20 years of limitations that prevented any flights to destinations outside of the E.U., Milan’s Forlanini Airport located in the suburb town of Linate will be subject to a new regulation imposing a perimeter rule similar to those regulating traffic at New York La Guardia and Washington National.
According to the new framework approved last week by the European Commission that will need to be translated into law by the Italian legislator, all destinations within 1500 kilometers (approximately 810 nautical miles) of great circle distance from the airport will be allowed to be served from Linate by direct flights.
The European Commission however struck out an article in this proposal that required airlines serving Linate to stop selling itineraries to destinations that could not be served directly, therefore preventing them to use the airport for their hub-and-spoke networks feeding their hubs for their international services.
Until today, only destinations within the European Union (with the inclusion of Switzerland, which is considered part of the European Skies as far as commercial aviation is concerned) could be served from the airport, preventing non-E.U. airlines to even code-share on flights to and from Linate.
Some restrictions currently in place will also remain: the airport will maintain an artificial cap of 18 movements per hour and flights will only be operated by “single aisle” aircraft.
Traffic at Linate started to be restricted in 2000, when the city built a new terminal at the old Malpensa Airport to develop it into a big international airport. However, Malpensa is almost 50 km (approximately 30 miles) away from the city center, and at the time there was no train connecting the airport to the city and the only highway leading to the new terminal was heavily congested. On the other hand, Linate is just 8 km from Milan’s business district and can be easily reached by bus or taxi.
Therefore, in order to facilitate the development of the new airport, the Italian Government started introducing limitations on which destinations could be served from Linate, imposing limits on capacity and frequencies. Throughout the year those restrictions have been progressively modified, but as Malpensa failed to deliver on its potential, Linate’s traffic kept being regimented by progressively less restrictive regulations.
In 2016 it was decided that frequencies and destination limitations were to be scrapped, but Linate had to remain dedicated to intra-E.U. traffic. The runway is not long enough to allow for long-haul flights and cannot be extended as it is located in a heavily populated area.
The problem came when the United Kingdom decided to leave the E.U., therefore placing London outside of the list of allowed destinations. London is by far the most profitable destination from Linate for ITA Airways, the Italian flag carrier detaining the rights to almost 70% of the slots at the airport. After selling most of its London Heathrow slots to generate cash, the then-Alitalia (now become ITA Airways) started operating up to three flights a day to London City Airport relying on their Embraer 170 aircraft that can operate from the constrained airport in East London.
This change in regulation is coming to save the possibility to connect Milan’s most convenient airport to London and preventing the need to relocate all flights to Malpensa.
The new regulation will to open up the possibility to serve other destinations in the U.K., Tunisia, Algeria and the countries outside the E.U. in eastern Europe all the way to Moldova and Western Ukraine.