Gateway to Italy


SEA Group, the management company behind Milan’s two main airports, Malpensa and Linate, is excitedly in the middle of a growth phase, continuing unabated despite global instability. 

Malpensa, the biggest cargo airport in Italy, handles about 65% of the nation’s airfreight, making it the fifth busiest in Europe in terms of volumes. With a network of 210 global destinations served directly from the airport by its 105 airline partners, the hub offers a gateway between Italy and the rest of the world. 

“Cargo business saw frequent and quick changes during the past two years. The pandemic had significant repercussions on the dynamics of the flow of goods and on the type of products transported,” Paolo Dallanoce, Cargo Manager SEA, said.  

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Expanding operations 

Across 2022, Milan’s Malpensa Airport saw more than 721,000 tonnes of cargo move through its hub, marking a 29% increase compared to pre-pandemic levels in 2019. Within these total volumes, over 320,000 tonnes were transported by freighters, while the courier side handled 291,000 tonnes or 40% of total cargo. 

“Traffic data demonstrates a good response from customers to the initiatives implemented by SEA to support such rapid market changes in Malpensa Airport,” Dallanoce explained. 

The considerable increase in movements is related to the growth of express couriers, which mainly operate with short/medium haul aircrafts and have a lower weight/volume ratio than all cargo aircrafts. 

Over the past years, couriers, and primarily DHL, have driven the growth of cargo at Milan Malpensa. “This consistent development of e-commerce, accelerated by the effects of the pandemic, has mainly favoured the traffic of courier carriers,” Dallanoce said. 

The growth of express couriers and the increase in volumes of traditional cargo flights have abundantly covered the shortage of belly cargo (goods carried in the holds of passenger flights) during the pandemic. 

In 2022 Malpensa Airport was confirmed as the only Italian airport equipped to handle large quantities of all-cargo flights, with a market share of 65% of the total cargo transited through Italian airports. 

“The Milano Malpensa cargo city was thus able to support the economic development of Italy in its traditionally competitive export markets, such as fashion, furniture, mechanics, and food,” he added.   

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Smart City 

“Malpensa still has capacity for airfreight growth, even if the recent impressive growth has put some sub-systems under pressure,” Dallanoce said. 

To cope with the expansion of cargo activity in Milano Malpensa airport for next years, SEA is in the process of securing approval for a new masterplan that will allow for the construction of new cargo infrastructures, paired with an embrace of digitalisation.

Malpensa Smart City of Goods digital ecosystem consists of a network of ICT-based services that allows all the players in the import-export chain to use, integrate and share information in the management cycle of incoming and outgoing air cargo at the hub. 

“In 2022, SEA has had a strong commitment to the development of new IT applications designed to enhance the functions of the ICT ecosystem ‘Smart City of goods’,” Dallanoce explained. 

The services available allow the optimisation of the time of acceptance and unloading of goods, to streamline the processes and the shipping methods, and to know the stages of the load handling process, transforming the Cargo City for a digital future, aligned with the information and communication standards of the most advanced and important European cargo airports. 

“The new applications will improve the accuracy of managed data and monitor the progress of cargo processes at the airport, offering greater tools for intervention,” he said.