Ryanair could open up to 300 connecting options from Bergamo, the Italian airport's commercial aviation director Giacomo Cattaneo believes.
The budget carrier began connecting options to 25 of its destinations from Bergamo in July and has since increased that figure to 75. But speaking to FlightGlobal at the World Routes conference in Barcelona today, Cattaneo says he expects this to more than triple.
"Things are working well now after three months roughly and I guess quite soon they will open up the entire possible connectivities with their own routes," he says.
Ryanair currently operates 80 routes from Bergamo during the summer and 70 during the winter and, having spoken to the carrier, Cattaneo says he believes "all these are allowed to be combined with one another".
Initially, Cattaneo says, the number of passengers using Ryanair's connecting product could be counted on "one hand" in the first month, but it has been doubling every week and is now "three digits a day". He expects that ultimately several thousand passengers could use the service.
He says Ryanair has so far pursued a soft approach by only connecting flights with 2.5h between arrival and departure times. He expects this will be reduced as the airline gains experience with the product.
One issue that has arisen, Cattaneo says, is that Ryanair does not use "IATA messaging" to identify connecting passengers for the airport they were arriving at and so they were "still facing this difficulty of not getting this proper message".
He says the connecting product would "absolutely" be of interest to long-haul airlines looking for feed at Bergamo and describes his catchment as a "high potential inbound, high potential outbound market", which would appeal to a long-haul carrier.
While noting that Ryanair's talks over a long-haul feeder agreement with Norwegian have come to an end, Cattaneo suggests that a long-haul feeder arrangement with Aer Lingus from Bergamo could be possible and could, for example, involve a passenger flying from Milan to Dublin and then onward to Chicago.