How Milan Bergamo Airport Grew 1,300% In Two Decades

Milan’s Orio al Serio International Airport, also known as Milan Bergamo, has experienced astounding growth over the past 10 years. Handling one million passengers for the first time in 1999, the airport this year expects to surpass 14m. Here’s how Bergamo has expanded, and what’s in store for the future of this ambitious Italian airport.

Bergamo airport
BGY has grown massively in the past two decades. Photo: Raimond Spekking via Wikimedia

Milan Bergamo’s astounding growth

Its proper name is Orio al Serio International Airport, and it’s also known as Il Caravaggio International Airport, but most of us will recognize it best as Milan Bergamo Airport, thanks to its IATA code BGY. Whatever you call it, BGY has grown from a small regional airport to the third busiest in Italy over the past two decades.

Speaking at the recent AviaDev conference in Valencia, Bergamo’s Director of Commercial Aviation, Giacomo Cattaneo, confirmed the extent of this growth, saying,

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“The first time in our history when did one million passengers was in 1999. This year we are expecting over 14 million passengers.”

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Bergamo airport
Once a small regional, BGY is now a major international player. Photo: Luigi Rosa via Flickr

That’s a massive rise, in the region of 1,300%. This rise has not been all of a sudden either. Every year, the airport has grown by around a million passengers, adding between seven and 12% to its traffic. By 2005, the airport had passed four million passengers. By 2010, it was seven, and by 2015, it broke the 10m barrier for the first time.

What’s made Bergamo so successful?

The growth seen at Bergamo is somewhat in line with the growth in passenger traffic. However, growth at the airport has been greater. Most notably, Bergamo has sailed up the league tables of Italian airports, overtaking Linate for third place and snapping at the heels of Milan Malpensa. Part of this, says Giacomo, is thanks to the location of the airport.

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“We have a position where we have big cities like Milan, as well as lakes, mountains and other interesting things nearby. And we are located more or less in the center of Europe. Ryanair is very big here; we are the third base in its entire network.”

Ryanair at Bergamo
The arrival of Ryanair at Bergamo has helped drive traffic. Photo: Christoph Scholz via Flickr

Having Ryanair on board is certainly not hurting Bergamo’s growth, but the airline would never have come were it not for the forward-thinking management of the airport in its early days. In 2001, thanks to continued investment and high service standards at the airport, it was granted the Quality Certification for the passenger sector.

On Valentine’s Day 2002, Ryanair operated its first flight to BGY. Onboard were 80 young German couples, all engaged, who flew from Frankfurt Hahn for the occasion. One couple even got married on board! Two months later, Ryanair began flights to London, and even today Stansted is the number one busiest route from Bergamo, carrying more than half a million passengers a year.

Wizz bergamo
Wizz has been flying from Bergamo for 15 years. Photo: Wizz Air

Success breeds success, and over the next 10 years, Bergamo attracted the attention of a plethora of other carriers, with Wizz arriving in 2004. Since then, the airport has welcomed other low-cost and full service airlines, including Malta Air, Volotea, Lauda, Blue Air, TUI and British Airways.

The future for BGY

The success of BGY has seen record-breaking year after record-breaking year, and 2019 is no different. In the first six months of the year, 6.4m passengers passed through the doors of the airport. On the 25th June, Bergamo experienced its busiest day in history, as almost 48,000 passengers passed through the airport.

New destinations were launched this year too, including BA’s six times a week service to Gatwick, Vueling’s Barcelona route and numerous new Ryanair routes including Tbilisi, Agadir, Aqaba and Heraklion. But Giacomo is not done yet. He’s recently launched, in partnership with Kiwi.com, an initiative to make the most of the geographical position of his airport. He said,

“We have many flights going north, south, east and west. It makes sense that some passengers want to combine flights at more or less reasonable times of separation – so they were self-connecting. So, we thought, ‘let’s see if there is a partner out there who can do this in a more professional, well-structured way’. We particularly wanted a guarantee in place, so that if something goes wrong with the first flight, the risk doesn’t remain on the shoulders of the passenger.”

Giacomo reached out to Kiwi.com with a proposal to facilitate this trend of self-connection. The end result was something called Bergamolynk, a form of a hosted stopover for passengers.

BergamoLynk
The introduction of BergamoLynk has made connections even easier. Photo: BergamoLynk

Travelers moving between Europe and the Middle East, Africa or even between east and west Europe can now connect via multiple low-cost carriers through Bergamo, with no worries about delays or missed connections and an easier way to re-check baggage. Giacomo explained,

“We did our own contributions to make the lives of those passengers who are passing through a bit simpler. For example, giving fast track free of charge to every one of them, and a dedicated check in counter inside a VIP lounge landside, so they can re-check baggage.”

A bright future ahead

Although Bergamolynk has only been up and running for around nine months, Giacomo is delighted with progress so far. He said,

“It’s been less than one year , but so far we are averaging around 300 passengers per day. Of course, this doesn’t change the overall volume of the airport, however, it does boost retail. We’re planning to start giving a €10 voucher to spend in the airport shops, subject to a minimum spend. This is aimed to stimulate the retail aspect of Bergamolynk.”

More passenger spend means a healthier financial future for the airport too. As such, the airport is investing some €450m to expand and develop facilities. This will include a larger terminal, a new non-Schengen departures area and a much larger business lounge. As such, the airport is forecasting more incredible growth over the coming years, expecting to handle as many as 20 million passengers in 2020.

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Bryce

Another example of the astounding “Ryanair effect”, whereby multiple regional airports in many different countries have been “put on the map” as a result of becoming Ryanair hubs. Others include Charleroi, Pisa, Weeze and Eindhoven, for example.
Unfortunately, this blossoming effect can be easily choked by flight taxes…which have a particularly strong effect on LCC bookings. For example, Weeze (Düsseldorf) in Germany has seen a 50% decline in passengers since the German flight tax was introduced, and the airport is now facing possible closure.

William

Germans are on a suicide spiral. Many don’t know it and others don’t care. Sad to see.