Growth stories

Seeking a “new normal” for our industry through long-term collaboration

  • 01 June 2020

  • Infrastructure

  • Milan, Italy

Reading time: 4 minutes

In conversation with SEA Milan Airports

Armando Brunini: Milan is one of the most economically important cities in Europe with a growth rate – before the COVID-19 crisis – that was above the Italian average. Our mission as operators of Linate and Malpensa airports is to support the prosperity of this region, but Milan is in the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe and consequently our airports are facing the most challenging crisis in their history. COVID-19 is a “war” that the whole world is fighting but undoubtedly the transport industry is particularly exposed.

Mathias Burghardt: Ardian supported the management team at SEA who reacted immediately, creating a Crisis Management team which is coordinating both short-term actions and the medium-term response. SEA rightly made their top priority safeguarding the health of staff and passengers in every way they could.

  • 3

    attractive, individually designed terminals

Armando Brunini: We have also acted swiftly to reduce costs and defend our cash position, which is strong. We are in the process of setting scenarios for both the “new normal” that our industry will move into, and the transition phase. To adapt we will need to be as flexible as possible to minimize the negative impact, but also to capture the opportunities that emerge from every crisis.

Mathias Burghardt: Airports are essential for economies to function and grow, but even before COVID-19 they were facing huge challenges due to the urgent need to address climate change. As we stabilize and transition to the “new normal” for air travel, we must remain firmly focused on our commitment to achieving environmentally and socially sustainable growth. This means finding ways to greatly reduce our carbon emissions while still allowing our airports to grow. We have recently launched our Air Carbon website, which produces an estimate of the amount of carbon emissions from any airport in real time. It has shown that around 30% of emissions comes from the transport people use to travel to and from the airport, and more than 60% is from aircraft during take-off and landing. Less than 10% comes from the infrastructure itself, but as airport owners, our duty is to work on the 90% we cannot directly control.

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    years of expected growth based on service quality, traffic development, digital transformation, engaging passengers and sustainability

Armando Brunini: This is our fundamental plan for these airports for the future. Unless we can reduce emissions from those areas not directly under our control, achieving the kinds of reductions that are needed will be impossible. We’re collaborating with the city authorities to improve the express train link to Malpensa and we’re investing alongside the train company to market the service. That will mean less income from parking for the airport operator, but we must shift the balance from cars to public transport. We must all be aware of our corporate responsibilities in helping to reduce emissions. Malpensa is a big site with plenty of capacity to grow – unless we can demonstrate real progress on sustainability, we will not be able to make the most of that opportunity.

Mathias Burghardt: It’s the same for all our assets and this is why we’re now setting non-financial targets for all our portfolio companies, including for carbon efficiency and reducing emissions. Firstly, because we believe it’s our duty, and secondly, because I think companies that are not carbon-efficient will be obsolete within a few years. No one will want to invest in them.

  • Highest ratings

    in Europe in terms of carbon emissions containment

Armando Brunini: To reduce aircraft emissions, we are replicating an initiative Ardian put in place during its ownership of London Luton Airport, offering lower fees for newer aircraft that are quieter and emit less CO2. And in terms of the infrastructure itself, we can use digital systems and biometrics to beat the queues and create a passenger experience as seamless as possible. All these measures will improve productivity, lower costs and make the business more energy efficient. SEA Milan Airports is resilient and the enduring strengths of the city and region we serve will ultimately give us competitive advantages and support us in moving back to growth.

Mathias Burghardt: The airport can’t make all these changes by itself, but it can collaborate with stakeholders actively. Our vision of airports is that they’re not just isolated assets. We have to contribute to a region and maintain a dialogue with local authorities, neighbors and all stakeholders around the airport. We want to be partners.