Vueling joins the fray on busy Catania-Rome route

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Spanish carrier Vueling has detailed its plans to launch four daily flights linking Rome Fiumicino with Catania from May, the latest change of dynamic on Italy's busiest domestic route.

On 9 May, fast-expanding Vueling will launch services on the route linking the Italian capital with the Sicillian city. The carrier also connects Catania with another Italian city, Florence, and its Barcelona home base.

The link between Rome and Catania has in recent years usurped the much prized Fiumicino-Milan Linate pairing as the busiest domestic Italian route. Figures from ENAC, the Italian civil aviation authority, show more than 1.5 million passengers were carried on the route in 2012.

Innovata schedules data for February shows 212 return flights per week on the route today. The route is served by Alitalia, Blue Panorama Airlines, Meridianafly and, most recently, Ryanair. The Catania route was among the first the Irish carrier switched to Fuimicino from Rome's other airport Ciampino, in December 2013, as part of moves to relocate its Roman domestic network to the city's main hub airport.

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Source: Flightmaps Analytics

While Alitalia is this summer increasing the focus of its low-cost arm Air One at Catania, Rome is not one of the routes the unit will take on from Alitalia.

Vueling's move brings it further into competition with Ryanair. The Spanish carrier has launched bases at Rome Fiumicino and Brussels National as part of expansion beyond the Spanish market, airports at which the Irish carrier has subsequently launched its own base with a list of similar destinations.

Both carriers are looking to capitalise in the short-haul sector as established network carriers give greater emphasis to their long-haul businesses.

It marks a further shake-up of the dynamic on Italy's biggest domestic routes after EasyJet last year broke Alitalia's monopoly on the Linate-Fiumicino route.