Monopolies get state protection in Italy

 - October 17, 2006, 12:18 PM

Independent FBO groups are at last challenging cozy ground handling monopolies in Italy. But the new market entrants have encountered resistance at every turn as authorities try to dodge European Union competition rules.

Both Sky Services and Universal Weather & Aviation have won long-running battles to secure full handling licenses for airports in Milan and Rome. But even with the paperwork in hand, the companies say they have still had to contend with local aviation officials and airport management deliberately throwing obstacles in their way to prevent their efforts to actually start serving business aircraft operators.

Nonetheless, Naples-based Sky Services has now established its franchised operations at both Milan Linate and Rome Ciampino Airports, and it intends to build a network of FBOs at other Italian airports. At Naples Capodichino Airport, where the company already has its own lounge and office, it handles around 100 aircraft each month, while the bases at Milan and Rome receive 150 and 100 aircraft, respectively.

Sky Services wants to build its own terminal and hangars at Milan Linate next year, but it will need airport authority approval to do so. It also wants to secure private aircraft parking space at Rome and Naples for its clients to justify further investment in ground handling equipment. At Rome Ciampino, the company hopes to create a pilot snooze room.

For the past 18 years, Universal Aviation Italy has operated under a supervisory license that allows it to ensure that fully licensed handlers are addressing its clients’ needs. At last the company has been granted its own full license for Milan Linate and for Rome Ciampino airports.

Italian Firms Ready To Compete

Existing Linate handler Ali Transporti Aerei (ATA) has provided a new crew lounge over the past year with additional Internet connections, as well as a fully equipped operations center. The company, which operates from the general aviation terminal, is now planning to add a new reception area and set aside its own ramp space. It will also extend its hours of operation from 6 a.m. to midnight.

ATA has eight hangars at the airport but can offer these to corporate clients only on a space-available basis. Like Sky Services, it is lobbying the Linate management to allow construction of more hangar and ramp accommodation, at an airport that almost certainly receives the most business aviation traffic in Italy.

Meanwhile, at Turin Airport in the northwest of Italy, Sagat Handling is preparing for an influx of corporate traffic associated with the Winter Olympic Games that the city will host from February 10 to 26. The FBO is currently located in the airport’s main terminal but it is expecting to move into a new general aviation terminal that is set to open by year-end, with a dedicated, adjoining ramp for business aircraft. The airport authority does not currently allow direct limousine access to the aircraft steps, but the operator hopes that this policy will change.