Get ready for something weird. The latest entry in the “Who the F*&@ is” series is actually an airline with an idea I don’t hate… and it’s Italian. This airline appears to be focused on taking advantage of Alitalia’s stupidity, and that’s a strategy I can get behind. That being said, it could turn ugly quickly if too much, ahem, ego gets involved.
According to Airways, EGO is finalizing plans to start up next summer from its Milan base using Embraer 190/195 aircraft. How on Earth does Italy need ANOTHER airline? Ah, well, that’s why this is an interesting one.
Milan, as you may well know, has two primary airports. Close-in Linate is about 25 minutes just east of town. Malpensa lies about a 50 minute drive or train ride further out to the northwest. Linate’s relatively-short runway (about 8,000 feet) means it doesn’t handle any long-haul flights. Those all go over to Malpensa. Malpensa is also more convenient to certain parts of the region, including Lake Como and other tourist spots. Despite that, Linate is generally viewed as the more convenient, preferable option. It’s kind of like a Washington National vs. Dulles situation.
Over the years, Alitalia has had a love-hate relationship with Milan despite it being Italy’s business center. Alitalia has always had its main hub in Rome, but on occasion it decides it wants a bigger presence in Milan. It has regularly had service from restricted Linate throughout Italy and to European capitals, but Malpensa has generally only served long-haul and Rome for the airline. In reincarnation plan #8,593, Alitalia is now reported to be leaving Malpensa entirely. Even if it does remain, it will be with skeleton service to New York and perhaps Tokyo.
Up until this year, European service from Malpensa was from a mix of low-cost carriers and Qatar-surrogate Air Italy (former Meridiana). The biggest carrier is easyJet with about a third of flights. Wizz and Ryanair have been building up as as well, smelling opportunity. Air Italy was the only airline that worked with other airlines in a traditional way, but it shut down earlier this year. That’s where EGO comes in.
With all these longer-haul flights coming into Malpensa, EGO wants to target codesharing so it can take passengers beyond into smaller Italian towns. Combine that connectivity with a local base that prefers Malpensa for one reason or another, and you might be able to fill up a 100-seat airplane, at least during the summer.
Of course, to succeed with this, EGO would have to be focused and smart. That may be difficult. EGO, shockingly, seems a bit distracted.
Here’s the logo:
Ok, great. No problem there. But here is how the logo is described on the airline’s website:
The logo itself tells the story of EGO’s DNA: as the sun is at the centre of the solar system, around which all the planets rotate, at EGO the focus is the host from which all products and services are based.
Each circle represents at the same time, a planet, a colour, a quality, a personality, each one unique and different.
Orange is the sun that represents energy, dynamism, warmth, masculine character.
Green is the earth, solid, reliable, fluid, more feminine in character
Pink is the mutable, creative moon, bearer of change
WE RESPECT THE PERSONALITY OF EVERYONE, EVEN OF OUR PLANES…
Each aircraft represents a personality, and like them, it has a different colour and a PERSON NAME.
I could go on, but I’d rather not… at least, not until I can have some of what they’re smoking. This seems like an airline that, shall we say, may not have the focus to succeed.
“Focus” may not be the best word to use with this airline. After all, the Airways article shows a route map with all kinds of short hops criss-crossing the country with focus cities in Parma, Forli, and Florence. Parma and Forli are tiny airports with very little service today. Has every other airline missed some golden opportunity here? That seems unlikely.
So, it appears we have an airline with a solid opportunity to make money out of Malpensa in the summer months. That, unfortunately, is not enough to make an airline work on the whole. It will need to find ways to live through the winter. Since Alitalia has shrunk and will continue to shrink AND Air Italy has gone bust, you’d think there might be an opportunity for a regional feeder airline with smaller aircraft to make a niche work.
While its not exactly clear what niche might help the airline to strike gold year-round, Alitalia’s inability — or even unwilligness – to respond is helpful for a start-up. The bigger concern is the growing presence of Wizz, Ryanair, easyJet, and Volotea. Those are formidable low-cost carriers, albeit ones that don’t generally work well with others. Sliding into that narrow niche to fill the shrinking void is going to take focus and a lot of luck. But for EGO to succeed, it’s going to need to leave ego out of it.