Air Transport World

Small is beautiful: Europe's regional airport thrive on a diet of low-cost carriers.(Airports)

Five years ago, only a relative handful of Italian and international business travelers were aware of the existence of Milan's Orio al Serio Airport, or as it is more commonly known, Milan Bergamo. Today, you'll see more denim and backpacks than Armani inside the terminal. Lots more.

Since Ryanair opened its first Italian base there in February 2002, traffic has soared, reaching 2.8 million passengers in 2003, up 127%. And they are bringing the airport lots of money--profit last year surged 93% to 3.46 million [euro] from 1.97 [euro] million in 2002. Ryanair now operates nine routes from BGY and carried 1.4 million passengers in 2003, representing 50% of the airport's total passenger throughput. Through May of this year, passenger totals were up 33.5%.

Bergamo's experience is not unique. In the first six months of 2004, 4.06 million passengers passed through Stuttgart Airport, or some 720,000 more than during the prior-year period. Give credit to new activity by low-fare startups Germanwings and Hapag-Lloyd Express. Bergamo isn't Italy's fastest-growing airport and Stuttgart isn't Germany's, yet their development is representative of a trend that is surfacing all over Europe: Regional airports are outpacing main hubs in terms of passenger growth rates and the reason is tied to the dynamism of the LCC sector that has attached itself to smaller, out-of-the-way facilities.

Preliminary ACI Europe passenger statistics for the first five months of 2004 indicate that so-called Group 4 airports--those welcoming fewer than 5 million passengers per year--showed the largest increase in passenger traffic, an average of 14.1% over the year-ago period. Major airports handling more than 25 million passengers per year (Group 1), large airports with 10-25 million (Group 2) and medium airports with 5-10 million (Group 3) reported increases on average of 8.7%, 9.2% and 10.7% respectively when compared with the first five months of 2003.

Separately, Arthur D. Little-Paris calculated that passenger traffic growth at regional airports, which the consultancy defines as those serving mainly point-to-point traffic, increased by 6. …

Log in to your account to read this article – and millions more.