Business Aviation in Italy continued its recovery in the first four months of 2021 with year-over-year activity that was nearly 37 percent above the depths it reached in early 2020, when the Covid-19 pandemic was starting to reach full effect in the country and lockdowns were taking place across Europe.
“That is remarkable, considering January and February 2020 were pre-pandemic months,” said Chiara Dorigotti, CEO of SEA Prime, which manages the private aviation infrastructure at Milan Linate and Malpensa Airports under the Milano Prime brand. “Our airports never closed operations even during the hard-luck down months in March and April 2020.”
Speaking at EBACE Connect this week, she noted that while the private aviation traffic numbers at the two airports are still down from 2019, they are on a trend to return to normal by next year.
Since the beginning of 2021, while Europe’s private flight activity has been up by 10.6 percent, Italy has been a front runner, with movements up nearly 37 percent. “The traffic, however, has been merely domestic and inter-European, but we are gradually seeing an increase of intercontinental traffic," explained Dorigotti, adding that business at the Milano Prime general aviation terminal at Linate is up nearly 31 percent compared to the previous year, with a triple-digit increase in the first weeks of May alone.
With the increasing efficacy of the Covid vaccines, the company is expecting that trend to continue through the remainder of the year with the news that several of the city’s signature events, including Design Week, Fashion Week, and the Formula One Grand Prix are on track to return as live events.
According to Fabio Baiardo, the company’s operations manager, SEA Prime instituted a full range of Covid mitigation measures in response to the pandemic that hit the region quite hard. Among them are improved cleaning and sanitation; enforcement of social distancing; personal protection equipment for passengers, operators, and employees; paperless documentation; and the timely and constant flow of information regarding new traveler requirements to handlers and operators, all of which earned it Hygiene Synopsis Certification from safety and quality audit provider TÜV Italia.
In addition, the company started a partnership with Gruppo San Donato, the largest private hospital operator in Italy, to perform Covid nasal swab testing immediately after arrival or before departure at the Milano Prime terminals at Linate and Malpensa. Through this agreement, passengers and crewmembers can also arrange this service at their hotel or at home and have easy access to medical services provided by San Donato.
As a result of the pandemic, and in recognition of the levels of health and safety offered, Milano Prime is now able to offer its terminal services at Malpensa to passengers traveling on commercial charter flights, such as sports teams. Thus far it has handled approximately 150 such flights, consisting of 6,000 passengers, said Marco Funel, SEA Prime’s commercial manager. In another indication of activities slowly returning to normal, in June the company will hold its first static aircraft display at Linate since before the pandemic hit.
“In the first phase of the crisis, our focus was not on the expansion of the business but how to survive and understanding how to go on,” explained Baiardo. After the lockdowns subsided, the company begin to reengage with its sustainability goals, including acquiring a pair of new BMW i3 electrically powered vehicles, which are used for “follow me” duties at both airports.
Lastly, to accommodate the needs of Italian aircraft maintenance and management provider and long-term tenant Sirio, SEA Prime will construct a new 4,500-sq-m (48,500-sq-ft) hangar at Linate, which will be able to accommodate aircraft up to ACJs and BBJs. The €10 million ($12 million) facility, the 11th hangar on the Milano Prime ramp, will be completed in 2022.
While Sirio—which was purchased by Kenn Ricci’s Directional Aviation in 2018—has had its own hangar at Linate since 2001, its space is split between its maintenance activities and aircraft storage on behalf of its aircraft owners. This new purpose-built hangar that will feature offices, conference rooms, a parts warehouse, and a built-in crane system for moving heavy components will remedy that.
“We will have our maintenance, CAMO, safety, quality, and logistics teams finally under one roof,” said Sirio CEO Tom Engelhard. Last year, the company’s maintenance organization was named as a Bombardier-authorized service facility.