Last month (13th October 2021), Travel Radar analysed the situation of the Public Service Obligation (PSO) tender in the Italian island of Sardinia (see the story here), with Volotea and ITA being competing face-to-face to win the tender.
Just one day after the article was published, this is what happened:
- On 14th October, the Spanish Low-Cost carrier Volotea, which has a very strong presence in Sardinia and Italy, wins the tender over the newborn ITA Airways
- Operations are planned to start 36 hours after the announcement of the winner, in the morning of 16th October
- In just one day and a half, Volotea starts setting PSO services out of the three airports of Sardinia (Cagliari, Olbia, Alghero) and opens a base in Alghero
- On 16th October, Volotea successfully starts all of its new operations.
Now, one month after the start of these operations, Travel Radar has reached Valeria Rebasti, Volotea Country Manager for Italy and Southeastern Europe, to understand how are the operations going and how the airline has managed to start operations with such short notice. Here are the insights of our interview with Mrs Rebasti.
Travel Radar: Planning and starting operations on such short notice (36h!) must have been hard. How has the airline made it happen so quickly?
Valeria Rebasti: The period between the tender announcement, the final result and the first takeoff have been very tight. We managed, despite such short notice, to start PSO operations out of Alghero, Olbia and Cagliari to Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino, fully respecting dates and deadlines asked from the tender. Those have been very intense days for us and we had to work very hard, against the clock: this has been a real success for us.
Volotea is a young, lean and well geared-up airline, and this has definitely helped us in the process: this tender has been a real challenge for us, but we were not scared. Also, having already operating bases in Cagliari and Olbia (the latter being just a seasonal base, now extended to year-round), facilitated the situation.
Travel Radar: How are operations going now? Have you encountered any major issues during these first weeks of operations?
Valeria Rebasti: During this first month of operations, we have observed excellent performances in all three Sardinian airports, speaking of punctuality and customer satisfaction. These results certainly reward the hard work of the Volotea team, who achieved the impossible in order to meet the needs of our customers in Sardinia. Obviously, this first period has also been a way of setting in, and we know that everything can be improved: for this reason, we keep working intensively, so we can offer our passengers a better service day by day, ensuring even better travel options for our clients.
Travel Radar: You mentioned that Volotea has already a strong presence in Sardinia. How is this PSO affecting your operations there (in terms of planes, staff, routes)? Are you planning extra capacity, new destinations from Sardinia as a consequence?
Valeria Rebasti: Sardinia has always been a key market for Volotea operations and development. Managing the PSO operations out of the island is for us a great opportunity to strengthen even more our presence, where we have 3 of our 8 Italian bases: Cagliari, Olbia and Alghero (the latter being recently launched). 7-8 of our Airbus planes, in total, are currently based across the three airports. Also, operating these flights is giving us the opportunity to support the economy and the labour market of Sardinia: just last month, we started the recruitment process for pilots and cabin crew positions, and, during this winter, we will deploy 200 employees in the three bases. We are also currently considering further development of the bases, to increase our network.
Travel Radar: With the PSO, you are now serving airports (Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino) that are not typically the “small- and medium-size cities” where Volotea usually flies. Do you think the airline might consider boosting operations out of these airports, exploring new markets?
Valeria Rebasti: Rome Fiumicino is a debut for Volotea, while we operated out of Milan Linate last summer already. We will consider a reinforcement of our presence in these airports if we find the right opportunities. Volotea is continuously in the search of growth opportunities in diversified markets, but our core business will always be the same: to connect small and medium cities in Europe, improving connectivity in poorly served or unserved markets.
Travel Radar: How did the last summer go, in terms of passengers, revenue, operations? Competition is getting very fierce in the Italian market. How is Volotea coping with it?
Valeria Rebasti: Volotea, during last summer, has registered very good performances, closing the summer season with good growth. In the Italian domestic market, we have launched 9 new routes and increased our available seats by 65% compared to the previous summer, for a total of 1,7 million seats. We carried around 1,5 million passengers (+63%) and operated some 9800 domestic flights in Italy (+39%). We registered a very good load factor, too: 88%.
One success factor for us has been our fleet renewal: now it consists exclusively of Airbus A319 and A320, with more seats and better operating performance compared to our previous Boeing 717 fleet. We operated a total of 40 aircraft during the summer.
Results are, of course, still hit quite hard from the pandemic, but there have been very important signals of recovery, not only for us but for the whole industry.
I would like to emphasise that our company’s performance is the result of an attentive and precise strategy that we outlined in order to deal with the current situation: passengers have different needs and want now, and we shaped our offer based on them, focusing on domestic and insular connectivity. This shows that, following the excellent results we got during the summer in Italy and especially in Sardinia, our strategy has been (and is) the right one.
We want to thank Valeria Rebasti, Volotea Country Manager for Italy and Southeastern Europe, for her time and her insights, and we wish Volotea many safe landings!