The capacity of an airport, which in Italy is established by ENAC with the involvement of the interested parties, is established based on the capabilities of the individual airport, which in turn depend on:
- the air navigation sector plan, which concerns the operating and control capacity of the air traffic overseen by ENAV;
- the runway system and related infrastructure, in particular aprons and terminals;
- traffic demand factors;
- environmental restrictions, such as anti-noise procedures and the suspension of flights during hours of darkness.
The airport capacity is expressed by a certain number of movements per hour (with a “movement” concerning the take-off or landing of an aircraft, independently of the type of traffic). The capacity of the Milan airports has been established by ENAC as 88 movements/hour - as follows:
- Malpensa airport: 70 movements/hour (considering jointly take-offs and landings);
- Linate airport: 18 movements/hour (considering jointly take-offs and landings).
This breakdown of the movements per hour between Malpensa and Linate was established within the re-organization project of the Milan airport system, drawn up to facilitate the development of Malpensa.
Capacity of Malpensa airport
The capacity of Malpensa airport is subject to further limitations concerning:
- 39 similar movements (therefore movements of the same type, take-off or landings separately) and 31 opposing movements (therefore movements of a differing type, take-offs or landings jointly) every hour;
- 6/7 similar movements every 10 minutes, 6/7 similar movements in the subsequent 10 minutes (for a maximum of 13 similar movements every 20 minutes) and 5 opposing movements every 10 minutes.
The available time slots may be further developed in the future by airlines already operating out of the airport or by new airlines.
Capacity of Linate airport
The Linate airport infrastructure is capable of managing a capacity of approximately 32 movements/hour, although traffic limitation is imposed by the “Bersani” and “Bersani bis” Decrees which establish a cap of 18 movements/hour. This capacity was fixed for commercial flights, without including regional continuity agreement flights (therefore flights to and from particular regions located off the Italian mainland, such as Sicily and Sardinia, which guarantee connections with the main peninsular airports) and General Aviation flights.
The positioning of our airports in view of the European capacity crunch
The shortfall at the level of airport capacity is a very sensitive issue within the European air transport market and is considered one of the weak points threatening the industry's future growth.
Eurocontrol11 predicts that there will be more than 30 congested European airports by 2035.
POSITIONING AMONG SELECTED EUROPEAN AIRPORTS BY CAPACITY UTILIZATION RATE
Source: SEO Amsterdam Economics, 2017
Even today, these airports already operate at 80% or more of their capacity for more than three hours a day. According to the traffic growth scenario deemed “most likely” by Eurocontrol, in 2035 it will not be possible to accommodate approximately 1.9 million flights (12% of demand). The airport capacity shortfall will not be distributed uniformly throughout Europe. The United Kingdom, Turkey, Belgium, the Netherlands and several Eastern European countries are likely to be more severely affected than others. The lack of capacity of European airports is also cause for concern due to the scale of the negative externalities that will be borne by passengers. In a situation in which airport capacity demand exceeds supply – and in which airports have considerable market leverage over passenger traffic – prices will be used to balance demand and available capacity. If an airport's prices are reflected efficiently in airport fees, the lack of slots will result in higher rates and thus in higher costs for airlines, which in turn will charge their passengers higher fares for flights during peak times, on the basis of the market situation. According to Eurocontrol's estimated traffic growth figures, the total amount of fees charged to airlines at congested airports is expected to reach Euro 6.3 billion by 2035. Essentially, European passengers will inevitably pay an increasingly higher price for insufficient airport capacity. To reduce the negative impact of the capacity shortfall on passengers' income, constant investments are required, in addition to regulatory reform to combat disincentives for airlines to increase capacity.
The capacity utilization index (CUI) estimates an airport's use of its capacity compared to the peak level of the busiest 5% of hours. In other words, it is an indicator that measures the intensity at which an airport operates at its full capacity. The matrix shows the positioning of 30 major European counterparts in terms of CUI and 24-hour CUI. Linate may be seen to be among the most congested European airports – although the situation is destined to become less problematic in the future, in the light of regulatory traffic limitations – whereas Malpensa shows a large margin of unused operating capacity.
11 EUROCONTROL (2013b). Challenges of Growth 2013. Task 6: The Effect of Air Traffic Network Congestion in 2035