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Italy: Europe's #1 by airline seats - briefly. Alitalia bailout looms

Premium Analysis

Italy was hit by coronavirus, and suffered airline schedule cuts, before Europe's other big markets. It has also been the first market where capacity has started to rise again. Weekly seat count is up almost threefold over the past three weeks (but has still dropped 77.5% year-on-year in the week of 4-May-2020). This makes it number one in Europe this week.

Italian airlines have a decreasing presence in the much-reduced Italian market and the crisis has the potential to wipe them out entirely. Italy plans to fight this by renationalising Alitalia.

The more important question is whether it might be better to save public funds and allow the market to meet demand in the recovery? Italy's annual seat count grew by 31% in the five years to 2019, bettered only by Spain among Western Europe's five big markets, but growth was driven by foreign airlines (mainly LCCs).

Italy is historically Europe's number five aviation market by annual seats, behind UK (the largest), Germany, Spain and France. Once the recovery is under way, Italy is likely to remain one of Europe's major markets, even if its time as number one proves only temporary.

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