EasyJet aims to build on its launch of services between Milan and Rome by taking advantage of the perceived indifference that Italians have towards their national carrier Alitalia.
The UK-based low-cost carrier launches twice daily services between Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino on 25 March and will build frequencies to five times daily from 8 April. The airline has been able to launch the service following a ruling by local competition authority AGCM that Alitalia's monopoly on the route had to end.
"Unlike a lot of European countries where there is an affinity for the national carrier, Italians don't feel that kind of love for something past," said EasyJet chief executive Carolyn McCall during the inaugural flight on 25 March. "So I think EasyJet can be Italy's favourite airline." However she conceded the country's aviation market is "complex and not straightforward".
EasyJet, which has 24 aircraft based in Italy, says it holds over 10% of the total market, ranking it third behind Alitalia and Ryanair (both with just over 20%). The 18 Airbuses it has at Milan Malpensa makes the airport its second largest base behind Gatwick.
However, expansion of the Milan-Rome operation will be taken cautiously, says McCall: "We'll see how our five-times-daily operations go before we try to get additional slots."
The airline has a stated intent to expand through organic growth across its network at about 4% a year for the next three years. "If there are opportunities that arise in Italy through a restructuring of Alitalia, we would be mindful of those," says McCall. However she does not currently envisage the airline's Italian growth running above that 4% network average, although it has been running at 7-8%.