Fiumicino airport domestic routes are being grabbed by budget airlines. Image from wikipedia

Budget airlines swoop in on Alitalia domestic routes as ITA remains grounded

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The launch of ITA, Alitalia’s successor, remains something of an unknown. Meanwhile, budget airlines Ryanair and Wizz Air are wasting no time in grabbing Italy’s domestic routes.

ITA’s wings remain clipped as talks with the European Commission drag on. The very earliest the new airline can expect to take off is August.

In the meantime, its budget airline competitors, Ryanair and Wizz Air are grabbing the new carrier’s market share.

Ryanair almost doubles its Italian domestic routes

Ryanair, Europe’s largest budget airline, is expanding to more than 100 domestic routes this summer. It was selling 60 before the pandemic.

It could move ahead of Alitalia on its home turf in the second quarter, according to consulting firm AlixPartners.

AlixPartners expects Ryanair’s slice of domestic seats offered to rise to 35% from 32% before the pandemic while Alitalia shrinks to 32% from 41% in the quarter to June 30.

Meanwhile, other budget airlines, including Easyjet could account for up to 67% of domestic flight capacity in the second quarter, AlixPartners said. Up from 54% before the pandemic.

Wizz Air is set to grow from zero to 10% of the domestic market this summer, AlixPartners said.

“We are now moving to the next level” in Italy, by building outbound bases and moving into the “very significant” domestic market, Wizz Air CEO Jozsef Varadi told Reuters. “This is the right time to show up, when the industry is going through some difficulties.”

In recent months Ryanair and Wizz Air have commandeered temporary slots at Milan city airport Linate while clinching cut-price deals with secondary airports.

Both have also stepped up their presence at Alitalia’s hub at Rome-Fiumicino. Ryanair is doubling the number of planes it has based there this summer to six.

“Ryanair is an integral part of Italian life. It has flights that Alitalia never had,” said Eddie Wilson, chief executive of Ryanair DAC, the largest airline in Ryanair Group, which says it has 630 routes this summer to and from Italian airports.

ITA’s strategy

ITA CEO Fabio Lazzerini in April conceded that Alitalia’s lack of market presence had left room for an “aggressive campaign by competitors”.

However, he added ITA would clinch a commercial partnership with a full-service airline to counter the expansion of budget rivals.

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