CONNECTING NORTH-EAST ITALY

Veneto, Italy 2020 | TRANSPORT | VIP INTERVIEW

TBY talks to Enrico Marchi, Chairman of SAVE Group, on the 2012-2021 master plan, Venice Airport's growing traffic, and reaching a point of zero net carbon dioxide emissions.

SAVE Group manages the North-East airport system. How do the four airports in your network complement each other?

First and foremost, we try to satisfy the demand of air transportation of each area: every airport has its own goals according to the area it belongs to. In particular, Venice and Treviso may almost be defined as a single airport with two runways. Treviso focuses on low-cost carriers; over 80% of the traffic is by low-cost companies. Venice, instead, has network carriers, international airlines, as well as companies doing intercontinental flights. Venice is one of the three Italian intercontinental airports, together with Rome and Milan. Since 2000, we have been adding new destinations, and we currently have a number of destinations in North America, the Middle East, and Asia. Verona is focused on the passengers in its area, including the Garda region—a very important location both business-wise, as it has many industries, and touristic-wise. Besides the ones in Veneto, we are also stakeholders of Charleroi Airport in Belgium.

One of the group's main focuses is to deliver the EUR900-million 2012-2021 master plan. Can you give us a brief overview of where the plan stands today?

We have already invested around EUR500 million for the development of the terminal connection with the dockyard and for the makeover of the main runway. We also brought the secondary runway to the B category level; this means these two are complementary runways, where a plane can land with zero visibility. In the coming four years we are planning, with an average investment of EUR100 million per year, to complete the investment's cycle, which will be focused mainly on the improvement of the terminal and on the plant engineering of the runway.

In 2018, Venice Airport's traffic hit 11 million passengers. What drove this result, and what is your strategy to further increase this number in the years ahead?

The results stem especially from the acknowledgment of not having a strong national airline and thus having to fill this gap. We looked all over the world for companies that could be interested in Venice as a transportation hub. That is why we chose international companies, and two of them are based in Venice. We now have seven planes by Volotea and seven by easyJet that are based here. We have over 50 companies flying to over 100 destinations from Venice. For the future, we aim to continue working on these lines—we have a pipeline of intercontinental destinations including Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Miami—continue to increase the frequency of flights, and improve the connections. The short and medium-haul flights will be operated both by traditional carriers that serve their hubs and by low-cost carriers that serve point-to-point segments, and the long-haul flights by international companies. We have started a program, called Venice Connects, with the goal of easing connections between short and long-haul flights. Venice can not only be a point-to-point airport, but also an airport that helps Venice make a huge step forward from a connection point of view. Passing by Venice could be a good and useful alternative to go to the south of Italy, Croatia, and the Balkans. We implemented a system that eases the loading of luggage to connecting flights, and an insurance package in case of missed connection flights. Even airlines have realized the importance of this project and engaged with it.

EUR6.5 million of the master plan were invested in sustainability. Can you tell us more about this?

This is another one of our focuses: constant, durable, and sustainable growth. We place great importance to the relations with the territory. There are many things we are working on. One is the level 3 carbon accreditation from ACI Europe, which we obtained a long time ago. The other crucial goal for 2050 is getting to zero net carbon dioxide emissions; we committed to this in Cyprus spring 2018, and it is a very important pillar for us.

What is the role of the Venice airport for the region?

A big and efficient airport is a pre-condition for the development of a certain region. We are one of the biggest companies in the region: for every 1 million passengers, about a thousand jobs are created. This means that today, by reaching 11.3 million passengers, we have created over 11,000 jobs. Besides this, there is a less direct spin-off, which is the airport's function in increasing the accessibility of local companies, as well as tourism. Venice is overcrowded but this is especially because most come and go in one day. Passengers coming by air usually stay longer and spend more. In this sense, the airport is a machine that creates development and employment.

What should we expect in the next 12 months?

In 2020, we will start discussing a new master plan with the European Network for Accessible Tourism (ENAT), so we will consider the new investment cycle that will go beyond the ones we have already in place. I see a great future for the SAVE Group and its airports. I am proud to say that the aviation and airport sector is the only sector among the public utility ones where Veneto was able to build a system. We showed it is possible to have four airports and manage them in an efficient way, making them a model for the rest of the country.