Let’s fly to Milan

An NCA 747-400F lands at Milan Malpensa Airport. Photo Enrico Pierobon/Wikimedia

An NCA 747-400F lands at Milan Malpensa Airport. Photo Enrico Pierobon/Wikimedia

Readily available fifth freedom rights have made Milan the hottest spot on the globe for freighter operators.

Two months ago, the government of Italy announced that, in an effort to boost the country’s economy, “the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport, in collaboration with the Ministry of External Affairs and International Cooperation, shall promote the conclusion or amendment of bilateral agreements on air transport. In the meantime, ENAC (Italian Civil Aviation Authority) shall issue temporary authorizations under the fifth freedom of the air regarding passenger and cargo flights, upon request of the carrier and with prior agreement from the Ministry of Infrastructure and Transport. Such authorizations shall respect European legislation and be of at least 18 months duration, renewable upon expiry. The aim of the issuance of said temporary authorizations shall be to ensure maximum international accessibility.”

Much legalese in that statement, but the short version of it is that foreign carriers are now able to apply for, and be granted, fifth-freedom rights.

And apply they have – particularly freighter operators. Milan Malpensa Airport (MXP) has rapidly become the most popular new hub for many of the world’s big cargo carriers. The most recent example is Azerbaijan-based Silk Way Airlines, which entered a joint venture with two Italian investors (Ignatio Coraci and Francesco Rebaudo who hold 58% between them) specifically to take advantage of the new law.

The jv, SW Italia, has now taken delivery of the first of a planned five freighters, a 747-400F (29729) transferred from the fleet of Silk Way. SW Italia, which expects to soon be granted an AOC by Italy’s aviation regulator ENAC, plans to operate the freighter in scheduled service from Malpensa on a Milan-Baku-Hong Kong-Baku-Milan route beginning in June.

Other freighter operators that have taken advantage of Milan’s location as an ideal hub for Southern Europe  (and the availability of fifth freedom rights) include AirBridgeCargo, AeroLogic, Avianca, Cargolux (through its Cargolux Italia subsidiary), Emirates, Etihad Airways, Lufthansa Cargo, Nippon Cargo Airlines, Qatar Airways, and Saudia Cargo.

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