Air France-KLM wishes to commence direct Milan Linate to New York flights  - Istanbul Airport Meet and Assist

The Air France-KLM Group has announced its intention to begin operating direct flights between Milan and New York. The airline group is looking to start services on the route as soon as possible with new Airbus A321neos. However, the modification of a law that currently restricts the length of flights (in distance terms) from Milan’s Linate Airport (LIN) will be required before any such flights can commence.

Benjamin Smith, the Chief Executive Officer of the Air France-KLM Group announced his intentions during a summit held in Brussels on March 20, 2024, organized by the Airlines for Europe Association.

The existing restrictions in place at Linate Airport mean that hourly movements (departures and arrivals) are limited to 18 per hour, and additionally, a 1,500-kilometer limit on routes flown from the airport means that longer flights are severely restricted. Additionally, given the airport’s restricted runway length, only single-aisle aircraft are permitted at Linate. As a result, larger twin-aisle aircraft such as the Airbus A330, A350, Boeing 777, and 787 are not authorized for operations from the airport.

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While the airport is closer to the center of Milan city than its counterpart airport at Malpensa (MXP), these restrictions mean that growth at the airport is effectively limited to European destinations only. Following Brexit, special measures were taken to prevent disruption to the key business route between Linate and London and to allow the EU to non-EU route to continue.

“Once this limitation is lifted, we aspire to establish the route utilizing the Airbus A321neo,” said Smith.

By making this announcement, the airline group is clearly keen to get their new A321neos operating on longer business-heavy routes such as Milan to New York. The aircraft is well-suited to routes where high-yielding corporate and premium leisure passengers complement the operating economics of the narrowbody single-aisle aircraft.

With a range of up to 7,400 kilometers, the A321neo can easily serve the Milan to New York route which measures 6,477 kilometers.

The A321neo already operates the route between Malpensa and Newark flown by the French airline La Compagnie. This carrier offers a luxurious all-business-class configuration with only 74 seats, rather than the 220 passengers that other single-class A321s might accommodate.

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Air France has not placed orders for the A321neo as yet. However, Dutch airline KLM has already placed orders for 100 aircraft, which includes both A320neos and A321neo variants. While some of these will be operated by the group’s low-cost arm, Transavia, some are also expected to be employed by the parent carrier.

According to published airport traffic figures, more than 35,000 passengers traveled between Linate and New York’s two major international airports (JFK and Newark) in 2023, albeit via connecting flights. This is an average of almost a hundred passengers daily.

Smith’s intentions are driven by the example being set by La Compagnie’s operation and the Air France-KLM Group is actively seeking high-yielding routes from other European airports that would suit future A321 operations. However, the Group will need to open a dialogue with EU officials to open up Linate and free it of the restrictions currently imposed.

Whether this topic will be brought to the EU negotiation table as part of the approval process of the ITA Airways-Lufthansa merger remains to be seen.

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