23 November 2023
Interview with Giacomo Cattaneo
Director of Commercial Aviation at Milan Bergamo Airport
You have been in charge of development and management of relations with airlines since 1997 and have held the role of Director of Commercial Aviation at Milan Bergamo Airport for 14 years. Can you tell us what your role is, and how it has evolved over time?
I want to stress that this is something I do together with the commercial aviation team. Our goal is to develop passenger traffic. This we do by establishing relations with new airlines that are currently not present at our airport, seeking to focus on the attractions of the geographic area where BGY is located (Milan - Bergamo - the entire central-eastern area of Lombardy and beyond), as well as the efficiency, functionality, modernity of our infrastructure. The aim is to convince these new airlines to set up scheduled flights to and from Milan Bergamo Airport. Obviously, we also work with the airlines that are already present, to support and bolster existing destinations (perhaps to improve, and to increase the number of flights) and to add new ones. Then there are relations with tour operators, encouraging them to organise departures from BGY and allow their passengers to travel to the various holiday destinations.
Our activities include the development of the significant cargo traffic that makes a fundamental contribution to the import and export economy of our area. Our activities include the study and commercialisation of ancillary products (a theme that also covers non-aviation-related commerce and marketing).
What form do these activities take? In-person contacts or through the office; participation in sector trade fairs is fundamental. Obviously, there is also the management, together with all the other areas of the company, for the application of the agreements stipulated. Over time, forms of communication have evolved... imagine that years ago, even complex agreements were stipulated with a to-and-fro of faxes. In the meantime, the awareness of Milan Bergamo Airport has changed drastically.
Milan Bergamo Airport has become a true access point for the world, thanks to the many destinations reached either directly or via connections. Do you think that there is scope for further increases in connectivity and in both the number and type of airlines operating at the airport?
Absolutely. BGY is located right at the centre of Lombardy, in one of the most highly populated zones, with the highest density of companies and with the highest GDP per capita in Italy. This means that we are not just looking at Bergamo, but at a much broader area. It is therefore an area with a high inclination or need to travel for work, for tourism, for VFR (visiting friends and relatives). At the same time, the surrounding area is full of tourist attractions, including cities (Milan, Bergamo and Brescia, to name but a few), the mountains, the lakes. The airport therefore serves as a driver for the development of inbound tourism.
A high-demand area means that there is interest and need to travel, even to far-off destinations, and this is where the importance of being connected with transit hubs comes into play, allowing passengers to continue their journeys with connecting flights. For years, Pegasus Airlines has connected us, via its Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen hub, with an interesting range of destinations. For about a year, Anadolujet (a Turkish Airlines brand) has been doing the same. Since December 2022, Air Arabia has been flying to Sharjah (The Arab Emirates) with significant connections for both holidays (Bangkok and Sri Lanka, for example) and VFR (such as India and Pakistan).
FlyDubai, present since March 2023, goes beyond the concept of low cost. It is an airline that also offers business-class services. Daily flights to Dubai are operated in collaboration with Emirates (code sharing), which means that tickets can be issued via Emirates with departures from BGY to any part of the Emirates network (e.g., Japan, Singapore, Australia, New Zealand and much more) with just one stopover to change flights in Dubai T3.
Airport services are a fundamental part of a positive travel experience for passengers. In particular, you have promoted the Bergamolynk and BGY TOP initiatives. Can you tell us about these services?
Bergamolynk is a “facilitator of flight connections” via BGY. Our position, basically at the centre of Europe, means that many people naturally try to organise their itinerary, combining an inbound flight to BGY with a successive departure to their final destination (for example, Manchester - BGY and BGY - Lamezia Terme). Bergamolynk (thanks to the collaboration with Kiwi.com) offers passengers that use the service a range of combinations of flights via BGY. Thanks to the layout of our airport, it is extremely easy for incoming passengers to reach the departures area; Bergamolynk offers these passengers the chance to check-in at the VIP lounge situated in the security area and, via the Fast-Track service, quickly return to the airside area to wait for their next flight.
BGY TOP is defined as a “meet and greet” service. It allows users to have a totally dedicated airport service. For departures, this means having a ground-based hostess who meets the passenger outside the terminal at an agreed point; the porter service takes their luggage to the check-in on the landside VIP lounge (“check-in lounge”). The dedicated hostess then takes the passenger or passengers to the desired area of the terminal (for example, in the case of a specific interest for a certain product or shop). The passenger then also has access to the HelloSky airside lounge. Dedicated transportation to the aircraft is then provided with exclusive vehicles for the passenger or group. The BGY TOP service is also available for inbound flights, where all the steps are carried out as always in the presence of a dedicated hostess, with exclusive transportation between the aircraft and the terminal, and with the support of the luggage porter service. Details for both the Bergamolynk and BGY TOP service are available on the website www.milanbergamoairport.it.
Again as far as services offered to passengers are concerned, 20 years ago, you witnessed the founding of Avion Tourism Magazine, and as Director of Commercial Aviation, you have played an active role in defining the content to publish. Now, thanks to new technology, the digital edition of the magazine can also be read offline on board all the airlines that operate to and from the airport. How important is it to continue to offer this information service to passengers passing through the airport and regarding the destinations offered by the various airlines?
It is important and interesting. Avion Tourism presents destinations that are served from BGY but that users may not be aware of. It also stimulates interest towards travel, and highlights new flights offered by airlines that were perhaps not previously present. The fact that it is both offline and on the internet makes the magazine even more dynamic and accessible.
The 2023 summer season offered a record number of connections from BGY to 143 destinations in 39 countries. What is your view of the current situation, and what does the upcoming winter season have in store?
My view is positive. Demand is high, we have seen, above all, the return of international travel (summer 2022 was already an excellent season for domestic flights). For the winter, we will see consolidation with the confirmation of new destinations launched over the past year (for example, flydubai/Emirates every day to Dubai; Sharjah with Air Arabia; Tbilisi with Georgian Airways; Rotterdam with Transavia; Paris (CDG) / London (LGW) and Amsterdam with easyJet; Rome (Fiumicino) / Catania / Comiso with AeroItalia). We will also see more new destinations, including, between January and March, Norwegian launching BGY - Tromsø (Northern Norway, extremely interesting for the Northern Lights) for the first time; Ryanair will be activating BGY - Rovaniemi (the “land of Santa Claus” in Finland), as well as BGY - Kaunas (Lithuania).
Interview by Angela Trivigno
Avion Tourism Magazine
Photos: Copyright © Sacbo Spa
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