Ryanair overtook (09-Mar-2012) Alitalia as the largest air operator in Italy with the LCC transporting 28.0 million passengers in Italy compared to Alitalia’s 25.0 million in 2011, according to the Economic and Commercial Counsellor’s Office of the Embassy of the People’s Republic of China in Italy.
Ryanair overtakes Alitalia as largest carrier in Italy in 2011
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Ryanair's accelerated growth in Italy shows the success of its hard-ball game over tax hikes
Not for the first time, Ryanair has won in a game of hard ball. It has a long history of forcing others to do business on its own terms – otherwise it will go elsewhere. After Italy increased municipal taxes on air traffic in Jan-2016, Ryanair decided to close its bases at Alghero in Sardinia and Pescara on Italy's Adriatic coast, and to withdraw from Crotone in the south of the country from Oct-2016. It had also planned to close 16 routes this coming winter.
Ryanair now says that it will accelerate its growth plans in Italy, allocating a further 10 new aircraft to the country. This was prompted by the Italian government's decision to reverse the tax increase from 1-Sep-2016. It may also have been facilitated by Ryanair's plans to reduce its UK growth after the Brexit vote.
Ryanair announced on 17-Aug-2016 that it will launch 44 new routes in Italy next year. It plans 21 new routes at airports in Rome and Milan and 23 at regional airports in Italy. Ryanair expects that it will increase its passenger numbers in Italy by 10% to 35 million in 2017 as a result of this expansion. Already the biggest airline by seats in Italy, Ryanair looks set to extend its lead.
Alitalia's network benefits from Etihad partnership. Time now to shed the dependency culture
Since Etihad's Dec-2014 investment in a 49% stake in Alitalia the Italian airline has enjoyed much positive change. It has worked to move its brand and product more upmarket to differentiate itself from fierce LCC competition in Italy, where Ryanair is the biggest airline by seats.
Alitalia's long haul offering has benefited from its partnership with Etihad. This has mainly been due to codeshare access to a much wider range of destinations in the Middle East and Asia Pacific. However, this summer's launch of a Rome-Beijing service indicates growing self-confidence too. Alitalia has also shown renewed confidence by growing its small niche to Latin America, the main region where it takes the lead over Etihad. On short/medium haul the LCCs still provide a strong challenge, although Alitalia's European offering has been fortified by closer commercial ties with other Etihad investments (in particular airberlin).
However, Alitalia continues to be loss-making (to the tune of EUR199 million in 2015). This is a hard continuing habit to kick, even if the airline still insists that it will break the habit in 2017. The rest of the industry is collectively experiencing record profitability in 2016; an airline that cannot be profitable in such conditions still has much work to do.