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“Airport of Genoa will turn the corner in 2018” / INTERVIEW

Genoa - Traffic grows in the first two months of the year, as passengers grew by 3% last year, considering only non-chartered flights.


Genoa - 2017 WAS not good, partly because of P&O Cruise’s ships leaving Genoa, but 2018 is expected to be a record year; this is the situation at Genoa’s Cristoforo Colombo Airport, according to its president, Paolo Odone. The departure of P&O has meant the loss of 50,000 charter passengers, which resulted in the airport’s final balance sheet being down 1.5%. It is a sign that what should be one of the airport’s strong points, that is, its synergy with the passenger port, is struggling to take shape. “But if we consider only non-chartered flights,” Odone points out, “the airport’s passengers grew by 3% in 2017.”

What do you predict for 2018?

“We are going from having 26 destinations in 2017 to more than 40 in 2018, which means 24 percent growth from 1.27 million to 1.57 million passengers. It must be added that ENAC has made a programme agreement with the airport to increase its resources, from €5 per passenger to €11, which has aroused the interest of the airlines. Volotea, for example, is an enthusiastic supporter of Genoa, and has two planes based here, which benefits the airport’s business because of its requirements for supplies and services”.

It is a benefit for the balance sheet.

“Yes, although, despite the Alitalia crisis, the airport has always closed its balance sheets in the black, and that’s without support from the local authority. Bear in mind that the Region of Sicily provides 34 million to its airports. But I read in Il Secolo XIX that the president of Liguria, Giovanni Toti, is working on providing significant support to the airport.”

What is new in 2018?
“The most important new development is Easyjet providing flights to Bristol, Manchester and London. And then Berlin, which is important for both businesses and for incoming cruise passengers. A Hamburg route is also being considered with Costa Crociere. A much appreciated service is Volotea’s to Lamezia Terme. The only current negative is the slow pace of uptake on the Frankfurt connection, which launched in 2017. In 2018, traffic growth was 15% in January and 5% in February, but we also had 35,000 empty seats. We expect this year to be the turning point, as a hub both for business travel and to leisure destinations such as Lampedusa and Mykonos”.

Do you expect this to be a lasting turn around?
“Airlines are also realising the potential of the smaller airports. If prices are cheap, people decide to take trips that they would not otherwise have taken.”

What remains to be done?
“What is really holding Liguria back in terms of services is accessibility. And there have been paradoxical episodes, such as the Sestri bus that did not pick up passengers with luggage because it had no room. Mayor Marco Bucci got angry, and there is now a new bus that has room for the luggage. Now I have told the mayor that if the routes increase this summer from 26 to 40, AMT will have to reinforce its services, otherwise tourists will be left stranded. Meanwhile, we have confidence in the new Erzelli-Airport station, a railway improvement which Minister Graziano Delrio has promised several times. Both the airport and the Erzelli Hill will be connected to this new station by cable car.”

What about privatisation?
“The concession will expire in 2027, and no investor is interested in a concession that only lasts nine years. It is now suspended, because the offers we have received are too low, and the Court of Auditors would dispute them.

How is the cargo sector doing?
“It has always been a mystery why an airport that has the unique characteristic of being located in a port does not see significant exchanges of goods between ships and aircraft. We recently received a delegation of major international freight forwarders who have said they are interested in using the airport. We have warehouses that are only half utilised, with the possibility of further enlarging them. The large Antonov plane that landed a few days ago shows that we have the infrastructure to accommodate any sort of cargo. The private general aviation sector, which is very active in the summer, also deserves attention. A synergy had started up with Marina Genova Aeroporto before the Monti government destroyed the yachting industry. We must rebuild this relationship.”