MIAMI — Europe’s “little jewel” airport, Milan-Linate (LIN), will shut down for three months while its main runway and terminals are renovated, sending all its air traffic to Milan-Malpensa Airport (MXP).
With Linate’s closure, Malpensa will become, once again, the city’s main gateway and an Alitalia hub.
From July 27 until October 27, 2019, the single-runway airport will close its doors, sending all its employees, air traffic, and operational equipment to Malpensa.
A first estimate suggests that about 30,000 flights and two million passengers will be moved from one airport to the other while the renovations take place.
Linate’s €60 million Renovation Plan
Milan-Linate airport is ready to undergo a significant restyling project, which will see changes in both its terminals and only runway.
The project, set to begin next year, is scheduled to be finished by 2022.
“After the renovation of Milan-Malpensa’s Terminal 1, which revolutionized its appearance and operation, the new security filters and the Terminal 2 railway station, we are now beginning the works that will change the face of Milan-Linate airport,” announced Sea (Milan’s Airports Handler) via a public statement in June 2017.
The first phase of the renovation will have the main arrivals and baggage claim area completely redesigned, with new walls, roofs, and lighting systems installed “improving the perception of the height and width,” as said by the airport.
Linate will also have its Leonardo VIP Lounge relocated to a place which will allow for more space, catering to the predominantly business-oriented passengers that use the airport on a daily basis.
The first phase of construction has a budget for €8.3 million, of which €3.4 will be allocated for the terminal’s facade.
Pietro Modiano, Sea’s President, said that there have been no investments in Linate for over 25 years.
“The investment that was made in Milan-Malpensa back in 2015 allowed us to win the ‘Best European Airport’ prize at the Milan Expo,” he said, “allowing Malpensa to start a new chapter in its history.”
“Now, it is time to give Milan a city-airport that’s at the height of the best in Europe,” he added.
According to Modiano, Linate will only close for three months because its only runway needs a complete restoration.
However, when the time comes to renovate the terminals “the works will be carried out through micro work sites, with daytime and night activities,” looking to impact as little as possible.
Moreover, Linate doesn’t operate past curfew hours, allowing for further work to be carried out after midnight.
Linate is the quintessential city airport, located 15 minutes away from Milan’s city center. Malpensa, on the other hand, is located in Varese—almost 50 minutes away from Milan.
Oddly enough, the closure of Linate will take place during the busiest period in European commercial aviation: summertime.
The city and the airport’s management company, Sea, must guarantee that all logistical issues are solved before Linate’s closure next summer.
According to Italian aviation journalist, Leonard Berberi, a first meeting was held last week at the offices of Assoclearance, the company that manages the process of assigning slots in Italian airports.
In this meeting, the transfer all of Linate’s prized slots to Malpensa are being negotiated. Moreover, the transportation of all passengers from Milan’s city center to Malpensa are being debated.
Sea expects to have Trenord offering trains from Milan’s Central Station to Malpensa every 15 minutes during this period. However, the debate continues and there is no final agreement on how the city, Trenord, and Sea will guarantee that there will be no disruption while all traffic is transferred to Malpensa.
Airlines Getting Ready
One of the most intriguing topics being discussed in Italy is whether Alitalia will re-accommodate a hub operation in Malpensa once all its Linate flights are transferred to the bigger airport.
Currently, Alitalia owns a hefty 66% market share in Linate. Its most precious slots are those that allow the airline to offer airbridge flights to Rome-Fiumicino 280 times per week.
In Malpensa, Alitalia only offers a few flights to Rome, New York, and Tokyo, whereas from Linate, 37 domestic and international destinations are served.
In addition to Alitalia, its newest competitor, Air Italy, will also be transferring flights from Linate to its main hub in Malpensa.
The carrier only operates Public Service Offering flights between Linate and Olbia, in Sardinia.
On the low-cost carrier front, easyJet has become Malpensa’s number-one airline and Linate’s third, in terms of seat offerings per week.
The airline claims that while they continue to expect an official date of closure for Linate, all their flights will be transferred to Malpensa’s Terminal 2, where the airline runs its most important operation in Italy.
But Alitalia’s situation is more delicate. Currently, it does not have the slots and the infrastructure to handle the large
The airline might consider up-gauging most of its flights from Milan to Rome with larger aircraft, should Assoclearance deny them the same amount of slots between both cities.
Even though Linate’s closure doesn’t represent a real, permanent shut down, it does represent a significant challenge for the Italian government and management companies.