U.S. regs slow growth of Eurofly Milan-NY service

 - September 12, 2006, 11:52 AM

Italian carrier Eurofly has been operating its all-business-class Airbus A319 service between Milan and New York since May, but the start-up has been marred by a political row over traffic rights. The U.S. Department of Transportation refused to allow the service to operate to and from Milan’s near-downtown Linate Airport because U.S. airlines are obliged to use the less convenient Malpensa Airport.

A Eurofly spokesman conceded that “the start-up curve” has been “deeper” than expected, with load factors of barely 15 percent during the first month of the service. This increased to 30 percent during July. “Importantly, we are obtaining extremely good feedback from passengers who are appreciating the innovation and the exclusivity of our product, and we are sure this will pay,” the spokesman told AIN.

Eurofly has protested the U.S. insistence that it operate from Malpensa (about 31 miles northwest of downtown Milan). It still hopes to be able to operate from Linate Airport, five miles east of the city center.

The carrier has argued that it operates the route under private rules, rather than as a public airline service. The service has been set up through a partnership with the ClubMilanoManhattan (MiMa) cultural/business association. However, Eurofly sells tickets publicly through its Web site and there is no restriction on who can buy them.

The service uses a 48-seat A319LR twinjet, which Eurofly bought last year.
It has a second example of the type
on option.

The flights operate on weekdays, departing Milan Malpensa at 5 p.m. and arriving at New York John F. Kennedy International Airport at 8:20 p.m. the same day. The return service departs New York
at 9:50 p.m. and arrives in Milan at
12:15 p.m. the next day. Eurofly contends that this timetable helps passengers work around the effects of jet lag and have full business days at either end.

Passengers can check in 30 minutes ahead of departure using dedicated check-in desks and security clearance channels.

The A319 cabin boasts 58-inch-pitch seating, with 12 rows of four-abreast Recaro seats that recline to a nearly full flat position. Each seat offers a personal in-flight entertainment screen with audio and video on demand, and power for laptop computers. Passengers can send or receive text messages and short e-mails on their screens, which can also be used to request meals, refreshments and newspapers.

Current round-trip fares for the service range from $2,500 to $4,750 (€2,000 to €3,800). The MiMa group includes entrepreneurs, sportspeople and artists who travel frequently between Milan and New York. Its members can benefit from full concierge services provided through the association with Eurofly.