Who the F*&@ Is EGO Airways?

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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.

First aircraft named Martina – Image via EGO

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:

Ego Airways

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.

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14 comments on “Who the F*&@ Is EGO Airways?

  1. I fail to see what EGO will do usefully at Malpensa. Lufthansa set up a 20 aircraft based operation in Milan – that failed. Easyjet, Ryanair and Wizzair provide a LOT of shorthaul from Malpensa in non-Covid years. Other major airlines in Europe provide connectivity from Malpensa to their hubs
    What is the type of passenger for EGO ? I know Milan is big and wealthy, but I’m just not sure a big enough niche remains

    1. I agree. It looks like someone’s Id is deluding them into believing that EGO will work. In the end we will end up with an empty super EGO or one giant Freudian slip up.

    2. Well they aren’t actually starting to fly yet, only next summer which should be better timing (especially if nobody has filled Alitalia’s place by then)

  2. I don’t understand who is going to trek out to MXP to fly to Florence and Parma when they are so easily accessible through the train system.

    1. I don’t think the focus is to bring locals from Milan. Rather, it is to bring connecting passengers from MXP. While it is quick and easy to get from downtown Milan to Florence or Parma by train, it is a pain in the butt to get from MXP to Milano Centrale to then catch a train.

  3. Why not just resurrect Air One? They’re the only ones who seemed to be able to operate somewhat successfully.

  4. They’re aiming to replicate what people like Bangkok Airways are doing for Thailand and surrounding countries, whoring themselves to pretty much anyone that’s not aligned with the incumbent Alitalia (and Skyteam). Mostly on the long haul, but even the big European carriers like BA, Air France, KLM and Lufthansa don’t serve all points in the Italian market (although Lufthansa is coming pretty close with its local outfit Air Dolomiti) so they can still provide some value by offering connections through Malpensa to smaller towns. The local market they manage to serve is just additional bums on seats. This is actually pretty smart if it’s executed properly.

    1. For the northern cities you have rail as a viable competitor, and to the southern or island cities you have direct competition with 2+ low cost carriers. I agree that a codeshare helps if EGO can offer the flights frequently enough to ensure that the passenger isn’t stuck waiting at Malpensa for 5+ hours. If presented with an overnight or very long layover, I likely would try to cobble together my own connecting itinerary using one of the low cost carriers.

      Lets look at the international feed. Alitalia will be offering the same connecting options via Rome, and as you mentioned Lufthansa has its own operation. How many other OneWorld and unaligned airlines are there to provide feed? Couldn’t easyJet/Ryanair/Wizz also offer codeshares in an attempt to squash EGO?

      Starting a domestic airline in Italy seems like a guaranteed failure given the current levels of competition. This remains true even if Alitalia disappears.

      1. Hey Nathan

        I still think it’s doable, if you execute right.

        1. Transfer traffic won’t switch to rail. From Malpensa, for most destinations, you will need to change trains at least once in Milan. It’s a non-starter.

        2. Most business class travellers won’t change to an LCC to end their journeys if given a choice of a decent ride.

        3. Frequent flyers won’t either if you make it worth their while with a codeshare and the ability to earn redeemable miles at the very least (and possibly elite qualifying miles/dollars if the partnership develops well).

        4. Ryanair and Wizzair don’t partner and they have a limited presence at Malpensa anyway. Easyjet does, and it has a connecting platform (Worldwide by Easyjet) but it is an inferior proposition to a codeshare and Easyjet is not really geared to cater for transfer passengers as an LCC.

        5. While the Air Dolomiti operation makes EGO somewhat less attractive to Star carriers, not everyone in Star gets on with Lufthansa (LOT and Turkish are 2 obvious ones that spring to mind) so there is still potential there.

        Bangkok Airways has over 30 codeshare agreements in place with airlines across Oneworld, Skyteam, as well as non-aligned carriers. If you can replicate that kind of partner network, you have a chance. Italy is big and attractive enough as a market, and most international carriers will serve Milan, so it’s the right place to set up shop.

    2. Most of the important destinations are served by Lufthansa, Air France, or British Airways from their hubs as well as more from Swiss, KLM, and a few others. The additional ones that Ego would add are only the very smallest, with limited feed from Malpensa anyway (many more international flights are into Rome).
      Bangkok Airways looks similar but the numbers are very different (only one large international airport in the country, ground transport is pretty much never competitive, LCCs are mostly from a different airport, and lower costs in Thailand).

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