ITA Airways feels the heat

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  • AMcWhirter

    One would think Milan (MXP) to New York (JFK) would be a key business route for ITA Airways.

    But it hasn’t turned out that way.

    Italy’s Corriere de le Sera says that ITA Airways will cancel the above route on January 8, 2024.

    ITA Airways has faced fierce competition at Malpensa (MXP) from two US carriers plus fifth-free airline Emirates.

    In future it will serve New York from its main hub in Rome (FCO).

    Malpensa also serves nearby Swiss Ticino. Fussy Swiss travellers are known to favour Emirates to New York (the airline used to provide free transfers from Lugano for premium passengers but am not sure if this remains the case).

    Not only are fares less from Milan than from Zurich but the previous Lugano-Zurich air link was scrapped in favour of rail-air and some are unhappy with this.

    Here’s the piece we ran 10 years ago re Emirates Milan-New York.

    Emirates to operate transatlantic from Milan

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    Not at all @McWhirter ……… I have known Italian colleagues for 40years avoiding Alitalia/Airone (CIT ‘new’ Alitalia)/Ita Airways or whatever name they give it, like the plague. Those from near Pisa would religiously fly BA to LHR (shows how things have changed with them too) and there was, a daily AZ flight Pisa-LHR, but long since dropped.
    They are a terrible airline with poor service especially in the air, run by the powerful labour unions and corrupt politicians in Rome. Even most employees are ‘Romanacci’.
    Italians are very proud people of Italian food, their cars, their fashion, their weather in fact almost aspect of life except their politics, AND their national airline (which is the same subject). No greater proof of this, is in the swamping of Italy by FR and EZY who have almost destroyed AZ internally on domestic flights, and also throughout Europe.
    Taxes in Italy are extremely high, and they are constantly fed up with their hard-earned contributions disappearing into a bottomless pit of ineptitude and corruption.
    Even today I have colleagues from Tuscany who traipse up to MXP to take the EK flight to JFK because the service is so much more superior to ITA, and indeed US airlines.
    Pre-C19 times, I believe they were using A380s on that sector, but presently it’s still a B773. Maybe now when AZ disappears, the uptick in pax could result in the return of the A380 with EK.
    I am not a great fan of EK preferring another ME 5* airline for various reasons, but ITA (merely Alitalia with new blue paint), in competition for pax with EK is a joke, and a lost cause from day 1. As far as service is concerned, they are not even in the same field, let alone on the same page.

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    I was at MXP a couple of months back and I didn’t see a single ITA long haul aircraft. In fact there were, at most, a small handful of ITA single aisle planes there.
    (I did find out before I flew that ITA only appear to fly London – Linate).
    I did spot an EK A380, as well as DL, UA, La Compagnie all with pm flights to the US.


    Thank you for your comments.

    I was reporting on how ITA was surrendering a key business route, for almost any airline, to its competitors.

    For example, doesn’t BA consider New York its most lucrative route nowadays ?

    Anyway it appears that ITA will be retreating to Rome from where it will consolidate its long-haul network.

    Thanks for the info re EK. I wasn’t aware that EK’s catchment area for MXP extended as far south as Tuscany.


    I have flown Alitalia twice in Business Class (DEL and LAX) as well as the new ITA (GRU) and I have to say that in the air I find them excellent.

    Yes, their crew are not OTT with the customer mentality but I have never encountered one that was not professional.

    The food, hands down the best on any airline I have ever flown in Business Class (as long as you aren’t vegetarian). There isn’t a huge amount of selections from each course but what they do have is superb.

    Flights on the whole have been punctual except for a delay for the FCO – LAX flight due to a tech problem and an EU261 claim on that one was handled swiftly.

    The lounge near the long haul gates in Rome is very pleasant.

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    I am not sure if ITA is ‘feeling the heat’ or maybe for the first time in its Alitalia/ITA history making a sound commercial decision instead of being influenced by political demands. ITA has stated that the route has been unprofitable for a long time, but has been continued to be operated because…..? With all the aforementioned competition AlanO mentions upthread it seems to make sense.

    Not to start a debate but it reminds me a little of when BA nixed its one non London longhaul route from MAN to JFK. They may be the ‘national carrier’ but operating a single route from a non-hub with no feed doesn’t make sense.

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    Apologies, — I pressed the wrong button and inadvertently reported you – this was mistake.
    What I wanted to say was that I am ready to be corrected on my previous summary of Alitalia/ITA …. however Sir ………… you were travelling BIZ.

    I once remember when that fool James Hogan at EY invested (or should I say threw away a US$500m investment in AZ), and travelling from AUH to FCO with AZ, suggested after my underwhelming trip online to ETIHAD, that the aforementioned Mr Hogan should buy a ticket and travel incognito with AZ ‘down the back in cattle class’ to view at first hand his investment – he then might have understood how rather stupid he had been!

    Once again apologies for pressing the wrong button — its only me that gets reported by the snowflakes here ha ha ha ha ha

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    Haha no prob Alan. 🙂

    But yes, you are right regarding Business vs Economy. It is always funny when I tell family that live in Latin America that I have had really enjoyable flights on Iberia in Business Class with nice crew and they immediately respond with horror stories (from economy class).


    The thing about MXP is that it is a total pain to get to. Why go there when you have the gem which is Linate – now also on the metro network.

    Why they built an airport there is crazy, but actually I think they share the runway with the aircraft manufacturer. To me MXP is just a bad idea – and even translates as such… Mal (Bad) Pensa (thought).

    People in Milan would far rather stop somewhere like FRA or LHR starting at LIN than go to what should be called Turin East. And ITA recognising that there is no money to be made on that route just shows they are being sensible.


    Complimenti — allora …………
    No, the LEONARDO (ex Augusta) Helicopter factory is about 5 or 6kms SW of MXP and does have it’s own runway – the Miltary also have a base there too.
    So no, Malpensa was badly thought out and planned by politicians and therein lies your clue …………………….
    Using an expression widely used throughout Italy, usually with a shrug of helplessness or acceptance that what it is, is what is! ………………….”Siamo in Italia” purely indicating that literally “We are in Italy” and that quite often the corruption and ineptitude of Govt/Authorities/Politicians is beyond normal comprehension.


    With their newly delivered A321’s with full flat beds and premium eco, I wonder if they could consider LIN – JFK as BA used to do LCY – JFK?


    I am sure that the runway at Linate is unable to handle long-distance flights.

    sparkyflier commented above re MXP.

    Around 30 years I went out to see, what was at that time, Alitalia turning MXP into its long-haul hub. From memory Aliatlia removed most of its long-haul services from Rome which, at that time, Alitalia considered low yield.

    Before then business travellers from that region plus fussy leisure customers tended to avoid a Rome transit in favour of making the flight connection at another hub.

    Several times I visited Lugano in the late 1980s, early 1990s which is when home airline Crossair emerged as an alternative feeder airline for travellers from Milan etc.

    It must be noted that Lugano in Swiss Ticino is close and is of course strike-free. So Crossair would operate multiple daily flights LUG-ZRH to feed the Swissair network. (This was in the days when Swissair was independent)

    One wondes what changes Lufthansa will make to ITA when it becomes involved ?

    In fact Lufthansa once created “Lufthansa Italia” at Milan MXP to feed travellers to rival hubs ?

    Our copy is dated April 2009 – see below.

    Lufthansa Italia launches


    I just had a quick google of the runway lengths at LIN and LCY and admittedly the results are from wiki so take which a pinch of salt!

    But, according to wiki
    LCY – 1508 metres
    LIN – 2442 metres

    I recall BA operated the A318 ‘babybus’ on the JFK route so although LIN could obviously accommodate that sized aircraft I am not sure how different it would be for an A321.

    It’s worth noting that the A318 still didn’t have the legs to fly LCY-JFK non-stop instead making a re-fuelling stop in SNN. However, pax were able to take advantage of pre-clearing US immigration there while the aircraft refuelled.

    Reading online, it seems that the bigger barrier to ITA launching such a route is government and EU policy. It seems that there are quite a few restrictions on what flights can be operated from Linate, I guess with the hope it drives airlines to adopt a Milan home at the less favourable Malpensa.

    From ‘’:

    ‘… order to facilitate the development of the new airport, the Italian Government started introducing limitations on which destinations could be served from Linate, imposing limits on capacity and frequencies. Throughout the year those restrictions have been progressively modified, but as Malpensa failed to deliver on its potential, Linate’s traffic kept being regimented by progressively less restrictive regulations.

    In 2016 it was decided that frequencies and destination limitations were to be scrapped, but Linate had to remain dedicated to intra-E.U. traffic. The runway is not long enough to allow for long-haul flights and cannot be extended as it is located in a heavily populated area.

    The problem came when the United Kingdom decided to leave the E.U., therefore placing London outside of the list of allowed destinations. London is by far the most profitable destination from Linate for ITA Airways, the Italian flag carrier detaining the rights to almost 70% of the slots at the airport. After selling most of its London Heathrow slots to generate cash, the then-Alitalia (now become ITA Airways) started operating up to three flights a day to London City Airport relying on their Embraer 170 aircraft that can operate from the constrained airport in East London.

    This change in regulation is coming to save the possibility to connect Milan’s most convenient airport to London and preventing the need to relocate all flights to Malpensa.

    The new regulation will to open up the possibility to serve other destinations in the U.K., Tunisia, Algeria and the countries outside the E.U. in eastern Europe all the way to Moldova and Western Ukraine.’


    Indeed. At the time MXP was being developed as a hub the Italian gov’t placed restrictions on use of LIN.

    There was so much opposition that the restrictions were gradually removed.

    When Lufthansa gets involved I am sure there will be further changes at ITA.


    Ah yes remember the Crossair days well, although I was flying up from AUH through Riyadh to Zurich with Swissair on A310s in those days, then changing at ZRH onto Crossair firstly Saab 340s, and latterly Saab 2000 Concordinos to Genoa.
    These LX connections were also a good catch of my colleagues from Tuscany, and many a trip we did to Spain and Portugal out of Genoa via ZRH.
    With regard to MXP, I remember once having to get back to AUH urgently on 1st January (yes New Year’s Day) and LX were not flying the early connections from Genoa, so I went to a New Year’s Eve party at friends, and then drove from north Tuscany to MXP and caught an early 06.45 departure on a Swissair Fokker F100 to ZRH and on down to the Gulf.

    LH Italia didn’t take off, if you will excuse the pun ………. and I believe lasted maybe only 18 months …………… for what precise reasons I don’t know.
    Although at that time there were huge problems with bag pilfering/stealing and even when CCTV cameras helped to catch the culprits, on firing them, the rest of their colleagues went on strike and this behaviour really damaged MXP. Unbelievable behaviour/reaction but absolutely not uncommon in Italy with the workers.
    To quoin a phrase I explained on another thread here, one used in Italia to demonstrate acceptance with a shrug of how it is there …………. “Siamo in Italia”

    I hope you are right with regard to LHs involvement but I am afraid it will all end in tears —– too many other instances where when you try to fight this crazy mentality you lose …… Alitalia with Etihad pushing for efficiency, also their off-shoot Darwin Regional and let’s not forget about Qatar’s purchase of Meridiana which became Air Italy … after giving them A330s and buying B737 Max8s, Mr Akhbar Al Bakhar gave up and walked away finding no route through the inflexibility of Italian labour unions.

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