Italy’s national carrier, ITA Airways, will be throwing in the towel on Italy’s most competitive transatlantic route, and that seems sensible.
In this post:
ITA Airways cancels transatlantic flights from Milan
As of January 8, 2024, ITA Airways will be discontinuing its route between Milan (MXP) and New York (JFK). The airline currently operates this 3,995-mile route daily with an Airbus A330-300, using the following schedule:
AZ604 Milan to New York departing 1:20PM arriving 4:55PM
AZ605 New York to Milan departing 8:45PM arriving 10:45AM (+1 day)
ITA Airways’ primary long haul hub is in Rome (FCO), though the airline has historically operated a single transatlantic flight out of Milan, to New York. With ITA Airways now discontinuing this route, the airline is fully pulling out of Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP). However, the airline continues to operate domestic and short haul international flights out of Milan Linate Airport (LIN).
This is major for ITA Airways and its predecessor, Alitalia. Going back as far as 1948, Alitalia has continuously operated service out of Milan Malpensa Airport, though that will finally be ending. Meanwhile this particular route was also operated by Alitalia for many years.
It makes sense for ITA Airways to cancel this route
ITA Airways has stated that the Milan to New York route has been unprofitable for a long time, so it’s good to see the airline actually following the numbers and making a sound business decision, rather than operating routes based on prestige.
Why has ITA Airways been unable to make the Milan to New York route work? Well, it comes down to competition, as this route (between JFK and EWR) is also served by American, Delta, United, Emirates, and La Compagnie (and Neos, but with limited frequencies):
- American is part of the oneworld transatlantic joint venture, so captures much of the oneworld traffic between the two city pairs, plus has some amount of connectivity in New York
- Delta has a ton of connectivity in New York, and also has a transatlantic joint venture with Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic
- United operates to Milan out of Newark with a huge domestic route network, and also belongs to the Star Alliance transatlantic joint venture
- In terms of getting the best overall product, many people like to fly Emirates’ fifth freedom flight between the two airports, given how well regarded the airline is
- La Compagnie is an all-business class airline that offers incredible value for premium travelers, so presumably that captures quite a bit of the premium leisure demand
While ITA is Italy’s national carrier, there hasn’t been much logic to operating this route:
- ITA Airways had no advantage with connectivity in Milan, since the airline has no other routes out of Milan Malpensa
- ITA has been excluded from Delta’s transatlantic joint venture, so the airline hasn’t been able to command the same yields as Delta, and Delta also wasn’t booking a lot of passengers on its partner
- ITA’s A330-300 business class product isn’t nearly as good as the carrier’s A330-900neo or A350-900 business class product, so ITA’s passenger experience wasn’t exactly amazing
- It makes a lot more sense for ITA to continue to focus on its Rome hub, where there’s a bit less competition to New York, and the airline has a lot more connectivity
I could see this route returning eventually, but only if Lufthansa Group is successful in buying ITA, and if ITA is able to join the Star Alliance transatlantic joint venture. If that were the case, I imagine this route could be profitable.
ITA Airways will be canceling its Milan to New York route as of early 2024. This means that ITA is completely pulling out of Milan Malpensa Airport, and it will also be the first time in decades that ITA/Alitalia don’t operate this route. This seems like a logical route cut, and there’s still plenty of competition in the market.
What do you make of ITA Airways cutting Milan Malpensa flights?