Milan Malpensa is the Place where the Cargo Music will be Played

The discussions last year on the possible shaky future of Alitalia as an airline and its cargo operation did not do much to help positioning Milan’s Malpensa airport on the map as a viable cargo hub.

Cargo is on the upswing at Milan Malpensa  /  company courtesy
Cargo is on the upswing at Milan Malpensa / company courtesy

That all seems to have changed!
Malpensa seems to be the European rising star as far as air cargo goes.
What then makes the northern Italian hub so interesting all of a sudden for airfreight?
Could it be the recently published plans by Alitalia’s new owner, Etihad Airways, or is it so that foreign carriers have finally woken up to the Italian airfreight potential?

A bit of both we think!
Alitalia and Etihad as the new steering company released information last week on how they plan to set up their future operating strategy for the ailing Italian national carrier.
There was, however, almost no mention of the Alitalia cargo product.
Although this business segment was ignored, one can only assume that cargo will and must play an important role also.
There was talk about “reinventing the airline.”
That would mean starting from scratch.
Both companies announced that Alitalia would introduce new routes, new product and service standards, a new cost management strategy and a new branding. All of this being aimed at building what they see as a premium global airline which Italy can be proud of.

The Alitalia Board of Directors has ratified the new business strategy which was outlined by Alitalia and Etihad CEO‘s, Luca di Montezemolo and James Hogan.
Hogan made it clear that Etihad has invested heavily in Alitalia because they believe it can come back out on top again. He however also made it clear that the carrier must come back to profitability by latest 2017.

Does Milan Malpensa play a deciding role for cargo?
Three Italian hubs are the pivoting point for the new strategy.
Milan-Malpensa, Rome-Fiumicino and Milan-Linate.
Linate and Rome will be mainly for short, medium-haul and partner airlines hubs, with Rome expanding somewhat on the long-haul to new destinations such as San Francisco, Mexico City, Beijing and Seoul.
Malpensa is where the music will be played.
Here, long-haul expansion with the addition of Etihad and Alitalia long-haul flights is the firm planning
Long-haul means more belly space for cargo. This especially on expanded Etihad operations through Abu Dhabi. The five to six hours sectors mean less fuel on board and more weight for cargo.
There has been no mention of Alitalia re-entering the all freighter market.
But why should they - they have Etihad’s growing freighter fleet to lean on.

But others are!
The northern Italian market has always been well known for its export potential.
In the “old days” cargo was trucked up to the airports north of Milan, such as Paris, Frankfurt, Zurich, for connection to freighter services to the USA and the Far East.

That’s changing fast.
Look at some of those who are now regularly serving Malpensa with all freighter aircraft.
Cargolux has two Boeing 747-400F aircraft registered in Italy and a total of over 40 staff, including pilots on the Italian payroll.
This may well increase depending on demand and success of the present operation.

Aerologic, the 50%-50% Lufthansa/DHL owned carrier switched operations with its Boeing 777Fs from the Milan Orio al Serio airport to Malpensa as of January 15th. The German carrier connects MXP twice weekly with Hong Kong

Etihad is operating its freighters through MXP regularly and the finalization of the new AZ/EY strategy will surely see an increase in capacity in the near future.

Azerbaijan’s Silk Way Airlines recently formed a joint venture with Italian investors Ignacio and Francesco Rebaudo.
The result of this has been the setting up of Silk Way Italia and the delivery of a Boeing 747-400F to the new Italian carrier in early January of this year. The Air Operators Certificate (AOC) is in its final stages and is expected to be issued shortly. The carrier plans to run the route between Malpensa and Hong Kong as well as Baku.

Saudia Airlines Cargo is the latest addition for all freighter flights through Milan-Malpensa.
They have begun operating three weekly flights from Riyadh to Malpensa using Boeing freighters from their fleet of 15 all cargo aircraft.
Nabil Khojah, CEO of Saudia Cargo stated that “by operating direct freighter flights into Malpensa we are offering first class connections from our entire network including Hong Kong, China, Bangladesh and India right to the industrial centre of Italy.”

So - it is not just export cargo
Imports from the Far East seem to be playing a large role in the enormous increase in freighter operations through Milan.
The export market is also very important from the Italian side but it also seems that the tables have been turned somewhat.
Whereas in the past much of the Italian light industrial products, high value cargo and marble, were trucked to other airports - now cargo from southern Germany, France and other areas is coming through Milan for connection onto the increasing number of cargo flights on offer.

Is there enough cargo to go around?
Surely Alitalia and Etihad with their new strategical outlook will be keeping a close eye on this development. They will not want to be the losers and will have to try all possible to keep competition on their doorstep as low as possible.

John Mc Donagh

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