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Catchment area

According to the established international standards, an airport's catchment area is determined as including all points within the territory from which the airport can be reached in a given amount of time using any mode of transport available. The Milan airport system's catchment area principally comprises, in declining order of attractiveness, the Milan metropolitan area, the Region of Lombardy and north-western Italy. It also extends – albeit with a lesser ability to capture demand – to the regions of north-eastern Italy, Emilia Romagna and Tuscany. Within the Milan airport system, Malpensa is one of two airports in Italy (the other is Rome Fiumicino) serving a significant network of long-haul destinations.

Accordingly, passengers from northern Italy who wish to travel to intercontinental destinations have two choices: travel from Malpensa or depart from the nearest regional airport and change planes at a European hub. Italy's National Airport Plan also classifies Venice airport as strategic, but its network of long-haul destinations is not currently comparable to Malpensa's. In the short and medium term, it can therefore be stated that all of northern Italy is a potential catchment area for Milan's airports, and in particular for Malpensa with regard to long-haul destinations.

The ability to channel demand to Malpensa rather than to connecting flights routed through other European hubs is contingent on the accessibility of Malpensa airport – an area in which a fast, integrated and effective road system can make the difference.

Malpensa airport's catchment area


Source: Prepared by SEA using CLAS 2016 and ISTAT survey data

Linate airport's catchment area


Source: Prepared by SEA using CLAS 2016 and ISTAT survey data

Socio-economic features of the Milan airport system catchment area

 Catchment area% of Italian total
Area (km2) 135,057 44.8
Population 27,591,204 45.5
GDP 2012 (Euro mil.) 910,053 58.1
N° companies 2015 2,652,848 56.6
N° employees 2015 10,050,207 61.7
Exports 2016 (Euro mil.) 333,200 79.8

Source: SEA on ISTAT data

Lombardy – among Europe's most competitive regions – is the heart of the Milan airport system's catchment area.

Lombardy11 is Italy's number-one region from both a demographic and economic standpoint. Its population of 9.9 million in 2011 accounted for 16.4% of the nationwide total and its GDP, which exceeded Euro 337 billion in the same year, represented 20% of the Italian total.

It is also Italy's number-one industrial region: in 2013 its industrial value added amounted to 26.7% of the Italian total, whereas from the standpoint of employment Lombardy accounted for 23.8% of those employed by Italian industry nationwide. Yet it also plays a key role in agriculture, making it number-two in terms of agricultural value added, at 10.4% of the Italian total.

From the standpoint of economic indicators, Lombardy is the number-two European NUTS2 region in terms of GDP generation, following Île de France but coming in ahead of regions such as Inner London, Upper Bavaria, Düsseldorf or the Stuttgart region.

Lombardy's manufacturing exports are equivalent to approximately one-third of the national total for Italy and other major European countries (excluding Germany), whereas they are equal to or slightly less than those of nations such as Poland, the Czech Republic and Austria. If it were an independent nation, Lombardy would rank 11th in hypothetical rankings of the main European exporting nations.

Competitiveness of the airport and its local community

Airports and the communities in which they are located have a mutually reinforcing influence on one another: airports can have an impact on the competitiveness and economic development of the communities that benefit from their presence, yet the social and economic context in which airports operate also has a significant effect on airport operating performance.

The type and Boundary of the effects that our airports have on the social and economic parameters of the community in the catchment area (understood in its various ramifications, as discussed in the section above) are described in the section of this document dedicated to social and environmental impacts.

On the other hand, the contextual factors that have a particularly significant impact on the Boundary and characteristics of the airport business include economic growth (which has an impact above all on outgoing air traffic) and the attractiveness of the local area, above all to tourists (which instead affects incoming traffic).

Economic performance of Milan and Lombardy12

In the past four years, Milan has grown by 6.2% – i.e., twice the Italian nationwide rate (+3.6%) – driven by services (+7.6%, accounting for 82% of value added) and a robust recovery of industry in the two-year period 2016-2017 (respectively, +4.0% and +3.4%).

Thanks to this performance, Milan's GDP is currently 3.2% above the pre-crisis level, whereas both Lombardy and the rest of Italy still remain below their pre-crisis levels (by -1.1% and -4.4%, respectively).

Manufacturing figures for 2017 indicate that the recovery continues for small companies based in Lombardy (+3.4% at the annual level), which are growing as fast as their large counterparts (+3.3%), whereas mid-size companies doing even better (+4.2%). Small companies have a way to go yet to return to pre-crisis levels (-11.9%), whereas mid-size companies are almost there (-1.1%) and their larger counterparts have progressed well beyond this point (+8.2%).

In 2017 GDP grew by +1.8% in Lombardy and by +1.9% in Milan, compared to +1.5% in Italy. Over the last four years, Lombardy's GDP has risen by +5.1%.

In terms of manufacturing production, growth amounted to 3.7% in 2017, almost three times the level of 2016 (+1.3%), in line with Baden-Württemberg (+3.6%), above the Italian average (+3.1%), but below Catalonia, which continued its recovery at an even swifter pace (+4.2%). Lombardy narrowed the gap from its pre-crisis peak to -3.2%, whereas both Italy and Catalonia still have considerable ground to cover (-18.2% and -13.2%, respectively). Baden-Württemberg is 7 points above the 2008 level.

In 2017 GDP increased across all sectors of Lombardy's manufacturing industry (with the exception of textiles), with above-average gains in iron and steel (+5.9%), leather goods and footwear (+5.8%), machinery (+4.7%), rubber and plastic (+4.4%), chemicals and pharmaceuticals (+4.2%) and non-metallic minerals (+4.2%). All provinces grew – particularly those of Milan and Lodi, which doubled their performances compared to 2016, and Monza, which grew at nearly three times the rate for the previous year.

Attractiveness of the Milan area13

According to data supplied by the Milan Monitoring Centre, which measures Milan's ability to attract and compete – understood as the city's ability to play a global role, projecting a positive image of itself and drawing people, organized knowledge and capital – Milan is a metropolitan area with a robust, highly diversified economy (ranging from industry to commerce, services and finance); its leadership is strongest in areas relating to business and it enjoys a very positive international reputation.

The analysis was conducted on a comparative basis with the urban centers of the other four major European economic regions: Barcelona, Lyon, Munich and Stuttgart.

Milan ranked third in the panel (with an overall score of 0.96 in the category) in terms of its ability to attract tourists: Munich (1.32) and Barcelona (1.29) vie for the top spot in the rankings, with Munich boasting more than twice the incoming tourist levels of the Milan metropolitan area and Barcelona offering a very high hotel room occupancy rate.

Milan fell below the panel average in terms of spending by international tourists (0.90), showing a lower level of tourist spending both on the average and per tourist, while performing well at the level of average receipt amount. It also ranked third (1.01) by quantity of entertainment facilities in which to engage in various typical leisure time pursuits – a category which was led by Barcelona (1.44), followed by Lyon (1.17) – but was number-one (2.03) in terms of spending by tourists on leisure time services. Milan is far ahead of all the other cities in shopping (1.59), in terms of the presence of retail businesses targeting both local customers, but also, and above all, those who view big cities as places where the variety on offer allows customers to make the best choices.

This assessment is borne out by Milan's position in the rankings of the most attractive European cities for the 250 global top retailers. The sporting events hosted by the city serve as both a strong draw for international visitors as well as a significant boost for the city's reputation, with an important role to play in gaining the attention of an extremely broad public and worldwide media coverage.

Milan ranks second (1.54) after Barcelona (1.82), the city most successful at taking advantage of big sporting events. Lyon (0.69), Munich (0.68) and Stuttgart (0.27) lagged far behind, below the average. In 2014-2016, Milan was number-one in terms of the attraction of events of global interest, beating out Barcelona. International conventions and conferences are a major focal point, drawing visitors from around the world while also driving commercial development and innovation.

In this category, the comparison was drawn to the top European players in this sector, which differed from the standard territorial parameters considered in the analysis. When it came to conventions, Milan was number-two in Europe (1.11), second only to Frankfurt (1.15). They were followed by Paris (1.01) and then by Barcelona (0.73).

Milan ranked after the other cities in the benchmark in terms of international conferences (0.74, compared to 1.11 for Paris, 1.10 for Barcelona and 1.05 for London).

Milan's deep integration into the global network (garnering it an overall score of 1.34) compared to Munich (1.09), is further borne out by its leading position in the international rankings of cities and large number of diplomatic offices.

Attractiveness of the Milan area – benchmark based on various European cities


Source: Based on Milan Monitoring Centre data 2017 

In an increasingly interconnected international context, a direct connection to the world's major cities is indispensable.

Access to effective air transport services is thus an essential driver of success: Milan (with an overall score of 1.43 in this category) placed second, following Munich (1.57), slightly ahead of Barcelona (1.11) and well above Stuttgart (0.38) and Lyon (0.50).

Milan's greatest strength is its business community, which has made it home to companies operating within the global network (1.73 compared to 1.32 for Munich), sharply ahead of the other cities. Significantly, it leads as base of operations for companies with turnover of over Euro 1 billion (90 companies), ahead of Munich (50), Barcelona (37) and Stuttgart (20).

Its ability to attract companies and capital in terms of local offices of foreign multinationals is a key factor. Milan (1.38) is well positioned above the benchmark average, even with Munich (1.34) and just behind Barcelona (1.46) at the top of the rankings.

Compared to the other cities' roles in their respective countries, Milan is unique in that it acts as a privileged gateway for foreign direct investment in Italy, accounting for 38.0% of all new international greenfield projects.


11 Source: Confindustria Lombardia; ♯Lombardia 2030
12 Source: Assolombarda, Booklet on the Economy, March 25, 2018
13 Source: Milan Monitoring Centre 2017