Ryanair trial uses Rome as stepping stone for onward flights

Cantillon: low-cost airline gearing up for sale of connecting flights across its network

If connecting flights become part of Ryanair’s service, then it should help the carrier draw more passengers to its network, as it should broaden the destinations it can offer from individual airports. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

If connecting flights become part of Ryanair’s service, then it should help the carrier draw more passengers to its network, as it should broaden the destinations it can offer from individual airports. Photograph: Josep Lago/AFP/Getty Images

 

Ryanair took what could be another big departure yesterday when it began offering connecting flights through its base at Rome Fiumicino airport. The carrier is trialling this on a selection of routes – Alicante, Barcelona, Bari, Brussels, Catania, Comiso, Malta and Palermo – through the Italian capital. If it works, Ryanair will eventually roll it out across its network.

The system will operate in the same way as with any other airline. The two flights are bought on a single booking reference. The passenger and their checked-in bags transfer from the first leg to the second at Rome and fly on to their destination.

Passengers need not go from “airside” (the area past security) back out to “landside” (the check-in area) and instead get off one craft and go to the other. The airline is structuring it carefully, taking into account the time between the arriving and departing flights and the frequency of the services involved.

‘Self-connect’ customer

Ryanair is partly responding to a trend it has spotted among some of its customers. Many already “self-connect”. That is, they buy two flights to get to one place, disembarking from the first and boarding the second at an airport along the way. But this involves two bookings, two check-ins and a roundabout journey from airside to landside and back again.

If connecting flights become part of Ryanair’s service, then it should help the carrier draw more passengers to its network, as it should broaden the destinations it can offer from individual airports. In terms of the trials themselves, they will help Ryanair further consolidate its position in Rome, where the other big operator is Alitalia, the troubled Italian carrier relying on a government loan to keep flying.

In parallel with this, Ryanair is negotiating deals with Norwegian Air International and Aer Lingus that will allow its passengers to transfer to their long-haul flights. It is no coincidence the Irish carrier is working on both plans now. It believes low-cost carriers will dominate Europe’s internal short-haul market, putting them in a position to feed traffic into other players’ long-haul networks. The trials in Rome and the talks with rivals are part of its preparation for that day.

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