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A new start for SEA Milan Airports with enhanced focus on seamless travel and firm commitment to sustainability

A new start for SEA Milan Airports with enhanced focus on seamless travel and firm commitment to sustainability



The following article was published by Future Travel Experience

FTE speaks to Armando Brunini, CEO SEA Milan Airports, as the operator of Malpensa and Linate airports is seeing the first signs of a recovery.

Armando Brunini, CEO SEA Milan Airports: “It will be tough, and it might take some time, but SEA Milan Airports is resilient and we hope to come out of the crisis with fresh innovations while safeguarding as many jobs as possible.”

SEA Milan Airports has acted fast in response to the COVID-19 crisis, readapting continuously, and communicating frequently and frankly with all stakeholders and staff. FTE’s Ross Falconer speaks to Armando Brunini, CEO SEA Milan Airports, as travel restrictions are gradually being eased and the operator of Malpensa and Linate airports is seeing the first signs of a recovery.

“Milan was the first Western metropolis to be hit by the pandemic and to be engaged in the fight against the virus with the introduction of a lockdown,” Brunini begins. “Current estimates foresee a -40% loss of inbound travel and nearly -60% negative impact on MICE (meetings, incentives, conferences, exhibitions) business this year. The measures imposed are showing clear results and since 3 June travel within Europe is allowed.”

Milano&Partners, the promotion agency of the city of Milan, recently launched a new YesMilano communication campaign – “A new start. One step at a time” – which is promoted by the Municipality of Milan and the Chamber of Commerce of Milan Monza Brianza Lodi, and supported by SEA Milan Airports.

“Lombardy is the third-largest manufacturing region in Europe in terms of number of employees and Milan’s per capita GDP is 30% higher than the European average – it therefore has the resilience to sustain a strong recovery,” says Brunini.

“Acting fast, readapting continuously, communicating frequently”

Brunini took the helm as CEO of SEA Milan Airports in January 2019 after acquiring extensive experience in the airport sector, which has seen him play a key role in the considerable growth of air traffic, first as Managing Director of Bologna Airport (2007-2013) and then as CEO of Naples Airport (2013-2019). Indeed, under Brunini’s leadership the airport of Naples tripled its growth compared to the national average, recording an increase of 82% in passenger traffic in five years.

After having led the development and transformation of the airports of Bologna and Naples, he is now fully committed to leading SEA Milan Airports, the airport system serving one of Europe’s most dynamic cities, to its full potential.

2019 saw considerable growth at Malpensa, strengthened by the three-month closure of Linate for runway refurbishment works and the temporary transfer of traffic from Linate to Malpensa.

Therefore, Malpensa grew by 16.9% to 28.7 million passengers last year. Net of the activity transferred from Linate, traffic was up 9.1% to 26.8 million passengers. It was a year of expansion at Malpensa, with 40 new services, two new airlines and 13 new destinations, including two major long-haul services to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

The positive trend continued at the beginning of 2020, with 10 new services, four new airlines and seven new destinations, among which three new intercontinental services stood out: Eva Air to Taipei, ANA to Tokyo, and Gulf Air to Bahrain.

Then, after the COVID-19 crisis hit in late-February, within only a couple of weeks passenger traffic dropped by -99%. “So basically, we have been working with close to zero income for the last three months. Only cargo saw a limited reduction in volumes,” Brunini comments. “We entered the crisis only a few weeks before the rest of Europe and the world, so we are facing the same challenges and I am sure that we are often adopting similar approaches. In a nutshell we are acting fast, readapting continuously, and communicating frequently and frankly with all stakeholders and especially staff.”

SEA Milan Airports certainly responded quickly. Just 24 hours after the establishment of the first “red zone” in a small city near Milan, the airport operator set up a Crisis Committee and defined 10 working streams with dedicated project teams. “The first to kick-off and deliver results were aimed at containing health risk, cutting costs and preserving cash position,” Brunini explains. “After a few weeks our efforts were also very much dedicated to facilitating the recovery of operations and trying to imagine what possible ‘landscape’ and what structural changes we might find when the crisis is over.”

The first signs of recovery

Malpensa grew by 16.9% to 28.7 million passengers last year. Net of the activity transferred from Linate, traffic was up 9.1% to 26.8 million passengers. It was a year of expansion at Malpensa, with 40 new services, two new airlines and 13 new destinations, including two major long-haul services to Los Angeles and San Francisco.

In order to limit costs, passenger traffic has been operating only from Malpensa’s smaller Terminal 2, which has remained open throughout the crisis providing services for essential travel. To accommodate growing traffic volumes, within the framework of relevant COVID-19 safety measures, activity was transferred to the airport’s larger Terminal 1 on 15 June.

“Since the beginning of June restrictions are being gradually lifted and we are seeing the first signs of a recovery, with many of our most important airline clients planning to restart or increase their operations between mid-June and the beginning of August,” says Brunini. “Nevertheless, undoubtedly this coming summer will represent a fraction of normal volumes.”

As traffic grows and restrictions are loosened, Linate, which was temporarily closed, has now also reopened. A major refurbishment of the terminal is currently in progress.

“It is important that, in this negative scenario, we find a positive project in order to convey a message of encouragement to the market and our community,” says Brunini. “In the midst of COVID-19 we announced the establishment of Wizz Air’s first Italian base at Malpensa. They will begin flying in July with five based aircraft.”

The positive news, announced at the end of May, will see five A321s based at Malpensa. Complementing the eight routes already operated from the airport, Wizz Air has announced 20 new services to 11 countries from Malpensa, starting in July.

As passenger traffic returns, comprehensive health and safety measures are being implemented. These centre on three key pillars: social distancing and masks, special cleaning procedures, and temperature measurement both at departures and arrivals.

“We have a massive campaign to inform passengers, signage throughout the airport, and extra staff to monitor consistent behaviour,” Brunini explains. “It is clear to us that social distancing in particular is an understandable measure in this phase, but also that it is not viable in the longer-term since it limits throughput by at least 50%.”

Meanwhile, SEA Milan Airports in collaboration with ENAC, the Italian Civil Aviation Authority, has signed to participate in the health and safety measures recommended in the COVID-19 Aviation Health Safety Protocol, jointly developed by EASA and the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC).

Linate’s €100 million holistic refurbishment

A Face Boarding project is being trialled throughout 2020 in collaboration with Alitalia on the flagship Milan Linate-Rome Fiumicino route. The biometric technology enables travellers enrolled in the trial to go through security and boarding using facial recognition.

A new five-year strategic plan was approved by the Board of SEA Milan Airports shortly before the COVID-19 crisis. This focused on five key pillars: passenger experience, continued growth, people engagement, cost optimisation, and sustainability.

“Of course, we will need to work on a new strategic plan,” Brunini explains. “Some of the pillars of our ‘20-24’ plan will probably be confirmed but readapted, such as the enhancement of seamless and pleasant travel for our passengers, and a firm commitment on sustainability. Undoubtedly, the CAPEX plan will be redesigned with less need for infrastructure development and an even greater focus on technology. We will also need to be open to possible changes to our business model.”

Linate Airport is currently undergoing a holistic refurbishment. The €100 million investment began in 2018 and is scheduled for completion in spring 2021. The first projects included a new façade and a new arrivals hall, while the three-month closure of Linate last year enabled runway refurbishment works and the installation of a new hold baggage screening system.

“At Linate, you’ll see a different flavour and a different atmosphere,” says Brunini. “We’re doubling the commercial space. We have 10 new brands coming and 15 of the existing shops are being totally renovated. So, commercially, it is going to be a new experience.”

There are also plans for an omnichannel approach, with the physical retail offer complemented by a digital marketplace.

The commitment to enhancing the passenger experience is also evident in the Face Boarding project being trialled throughout 2020 in collaboration with Alitalia on the flagship Milan Linate-Rome Fiumicino route. The biometric technology enables travellers enrolled in the trial to go through security and boarding using facial recognition, without needing to show an identity document. Brunini describes it as a seamless process that, technically, is working very well.

Coming out of the crisis with fresh innovations

During his visit to Milan Linate Airport in mid-February, just a week before COVID-19 hit, FTE’s Ross Falconer caught up with Armando Brunini, CEO SEA Milan Airports, who explained that Linate Airport is currently undergoing a €100 million holistic refurbishment, which is scheduled for completion in spring 2021. The three-month closure of Linate last year enabled runway refurbishment works and the installation of a new hold baggage screening system.

With such an unprecedented crisis as COVID-19, it remains too early to make accurate projections about the recovery of airport traffic. “Sentiment seems to be continuously changing,” says Brunini. “My ‘bet’ in this moment would be that we will get back to 2019 volumes, but with a different structure of the market, between 2022 and 2023. That is, of course, hoping we don’t get a bad second wave of the pandemic.”

This year, of course, is about weathering the storm and minimising damage, while also preparing for the restart and anticipating new opportunities.

“For the future, we want to find even better ways to be of service to Milan and Lombardy, with sustainability high on the agenda. It will be tough, and it might take some time, but SEA Milan Airports is resilient and we hope to come out of the crisis with fresh innovations while safeguarding as many jobs as possible.”

Article originally published here:
A new start for SEA Milan Airports with enhanced focus on seamless travel and firm commitment to sustainability

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Spread & Containment

Las Vegas Strip faces growing bed bug problem

With huge events including Formula 1, CES, and the Super Bowl looming, the Las Vegas Strip faces an issue that could be a major cause for concern.



Las Vegas beat the covid pandemic.

It wasn't that long ago when the Las Vegas Strip went dark and people questioned whether Caesars Entertainment, MGM Resorts International, Wynn Resorts, and other Strip players would emerge from the crisis intact. 

Related: Las Vegas Strip report shares surprising F1 race news

In the darkest days, the entire Las Vegas Strip was closed down and when it reopened, it was not business as usual. Caesars Entertainment (CZR) - Get Free Report and MGM reopened slowly with all sorts of government-mandated restrictions in place.

The first months of the Strip's comeback featured temperature checks, a lot of plexiglass, gaming tables with limited numbers of players, masks, and social distancing. It was an odd mix of celebration and restraint as people were happy to be in Las Vegas, but the Strip was oddly empty, some casinos remained closed, and gaming floors were sparsely filled. 

When vaccines became available, the Las Vegas Strip benefitted quickly. Business and international travelers were slow to return, but leisure travelers began bringing crowds back to pre-pandemic levels. 

The comeback, however, was very fragile. CES 2022 was supposed to be Las Vegas's return to normal, the first major convention since covid. In reality, surging cases of the covid omicron variant caused most major companies to pull out.

Even with vaccines and covid tests required, an event that was supposed to be close to normal, ended up with 25% of 2020's pre-covid attendance. That CES showed just how quickly public sentiment — not actual danger — can ruin an event in Las Vegas.

Now, with November's Formula 1 Race, CES in January, and the Super Bowl in February all slated for Las Vegas, a rising health crisis threatens all of those events.

The Arena Media Brands, LLC and respective content providers to this website may receive compensation for some links to products and services on this website.

Covid left Las Vegas casinos empty for months.

Image source: Palms Casino

The Las Vegas Strip has a bed bug problem   

While bed bugs may not be as dangerous as covid, Respiratory Syncytial Virus (RSV),  Legionnaires’ disease, and some of the other infectious diseases that the Las Vegas Strip has faced over the past few years, they're still problematic. Bed bugs spread easily and a small infestation can become a large one quickly.

The sores caused by bed bugs are also a social media nightmare for the Las Vegas Strip. If even a few Las Vegas Strip visitors wake up covered in bed bug bites, that could become a viral nightmare for the entire city.

In late-August, reports came out the bed bugs had been at seven Las Vegas hotel, mostly on the Strip over the past two years. The impacted properties includes Caesars Planet Hollywood and Caesars Palace as well as MGM Resort International's (MGM) - Get Free Report MGM Grand, and others including Circus Circus, The Palazzo, Tropicana, and Sahara.

VISIT LAS VEGAS: Are you ready to plan your dream Las Vegas Strip getaway?

"Now, that number is nine with the addition of The Venetian and Park MGM. According to the health department report, a Venetian guest reported seeing the bloodsuckers on July 29 and was moved to another room. An inspection three days later confirmed their presence," reported.

The Park MGM bed bug incident took place on Aug. 14.

Bed bugs remain a Las Vegas Strip problem

Only Tropicana, which is soon going to be demolished, and Sahara, responded to about their bed bug issues. Caesars and MGM have not commented publicly or responded to requests from KLAS or

That makes sense because the resorts do not want news to spread about potential bed bug problems when the actual incidents have so far been minimal. The problem is that unreported bed bug issues can rapidly snowball.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) shares some guidelines on bed bug bites on its website that hint at the depth of the problem facing Las Vegas Strip resorts.

"Regularly wash and heat-dry your bed sheets, blankets, bedspreads and any clothing that touches the floor. This reduces the number of bed bugs. Bed bugs and their eggs can hide in laundry containers/hampers. Remember to clean them when you do the laundry," the agency shared.

Normally, that would not be an issue in Las Vegas as rooms are cleaned daily. Since the covid pandemic, however, some people have opted out of daily cleaning and some resorts have encouraged that.

F1? SUPER BOWL? MARCH MADNESS? Plan a dream Las Vegas getaway.

Not having daily room cleaning in just a few rooms could lead to quick spread.

"Bed bugs spread so easily and so quickly, that the University of Kentucky's entomology department notes that "it often seems that bed bugs arise from nowhere."

"Once bed bugs are introduced, they can crawl from room to room, or floor to floor via cracks and openings in walls, floors and ceilings," warned the University's researchers.  



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Americans are having a tough time repaying pandemic-era loans received with inflated credit scores

Borrowers are realizing the responsibility of new debts too late.



With the economy of the United States at a standstill during the Covid-19 pandemic, the efforts to stimulate the economy brought many opportunities to people who may have not had them otherwise. 

However, the extension of these opportunities to those who took advantage of the times has had its consequences.

Related: American Express reveals record profits, 'robust' spending in Q3 earnings report

Credit Crunch

GLASTONBURY, UNITED KINGDOM - JANUARY 12: In this photo illustration the Visa, Mastercard and American Express logos are seen on credit and debit cards on March 14, 2022 in Somerset, England. Visa, American Express and Mastercard have all announced they are suspending operations in Russia and credit and debit cards issued by Russian banks will no longer work outside of the country. (Photo by Matt Cardy/Getty Images)

Matt Cardy/Getty Images

A report by the Financial Times states that borrowers in the United States that took advantage of lending opportunities during the Covid-19 pandemic are falling behind on actually paying back their debt.

At a time when stimulus checks were handed out and loan repayments were frozen to help those affected by the economic shock of Covid-19, many consumers in the States saw that lenders became more willing to provide consumer credit.

According to a report by credit reporting agency TransUnion, the median consumer credit score jumped 20% to a peak of 676 in the first quarter of 2021, allowing many to finally have “good” credit scores. However, their data also showed that those who took out loans and credit from 2021 to early 2023 are having an hard time managing these debts.

“Consumer finance companies used this opportunity to juice up their growth at a time when funding was ample and consumers’ finances had gotten an artificial boost,” Chief economist of Moody’s Analytics Mark Zandi told FT. “Certainly a lot of lower-income households that got caught up in all of this will feel financial pain.”

Moody’s data shows that new credit cards accounts that were opened in the first quarter of 2023 have a 4% delinquency rate, while the same rate in September 2022 was 4.5%. According to the analysts, these levels were the highest for the same point of the year since 2008.

Additionally, a study by credit scoring company VantageScore found that credit cards issued in March 2022 had higher delinquency rates than cards issued at the same time during the prior four years.

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Credit cards were not the only debts that American consumers took on. As per S&P Global Ratings data, riskier car loans taken on during the height of the pandemic have more repayment problems than in previous years. In 2022, subprime borrowers were becoming delinquent on new cars loans at twice the rate of pre-pandemic levels.

S&P auto loan tracker Amy Martin told FT that lenders during the pandemic were “rather aggressive” in terms of signing new loans.

Bill Moreland of research group BankRegData has warned about these rising delinquencies in the past and had recently estimated that by late 2022, there were hundreds of billions of dollars in what he calls “excess lending based upon artificially inflated credit scores”.

The Government's Role

WASHINGTON, DC - APRIL 29: U.S. President Donald Trump's name appears on the coronavirus economic assistance checks that were sent to citizens across the country April 29, 2020 in Washington, DC. The initial 88 million payments totaling nearly $158 billion were sent by the Treasury Department last week as most of the country remains under stay-at-home orders due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images)

Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Because so many are failing to pay their bills, many are wary that the government assistance may have been a financial double-edged sword; as they were meant to alleviate financial stress during lockdown, while it led some of them to financial difficulty.

The $2.2 trillion Cares Act federal aid package passed in the early stages of the pandemic not only put cash in the American consumer’s pocket, but also protected borrowers from foreclosure, default and in some instances, lenders were barred from reporting late payments to credit bureaus.

Yeshiva University law professor Pam Foohey specializes in consumer bankruptcy and believes that the Cares Act was good policy, however she shifts the blame away from the consumers and borrowers.

“I fault lenders and the market structure for not having a longer-term perspective. That’s not something that the Cares Act should have solved and it still exists and still needs to be addressed.”

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Inflation: raising interest rates was never the right medicine – here’s why central bankers did it anyway

We need to start cutting rates, but there’s something that has to happen first.



Pain, no gain? Bank of England Governor Andrew Bailey. IMF, CC BY-SA

Inflation remains too high in the UK. The annual rate of consumer price inflation to September was 6.7%, the same as a month earlier. This is well below the 11.1% peak reached in October 2022, but the failure of inflation to keep falling indicates it is proving far more stubborn than anticipated.

This may prompt the Bank of England’s Monetary Policy Committee (MPC) to raise the benchmark interest rate yet again when it meets in November, but in my view this would not be entirely justified.

In reality, the rate hikes that began two years ago have not been very helpful in tackling inflation, at least not directly. So what’s the problem and is there a better alternative?

Right policy, wrong inflation

Raising interest rates is the MPC’s main tool for trying to get inflation back to its target rate of 2%. The idea is that this makes it more expensive to borrow money, which should reduce consumer demand for goods and services.

The trouble is that the type of inflation recently witnessed in the UK seems less a problem of excessive demand than because costs have been rising for manufacturers and service providers. It’s known as “cost-push inflation” as opposed to “demand-pull inflation”.

Inflation rates (UK, US, eurozone)

Graph comparing inflation rates of UK, US and eurozone
UK = dark blue; eurozone = turquoise; US = orange. Trading View

Production costs have risen for several reasons. During the COVID-19 pandemic, central banks “created money” through quantitative easing to enable their governments to run large spending deficits to pay for furloughs and other interventions to help citizens through the crisis.

When countries started reopening, it meant people had money in their pockets to buy more goods and services. Yet with China still in lockdown, global supply chains could not keep pace with the resurgent demand so prices went up – most notably oil.

Oil price (Brent crude, US$)

Chart showing price of Brent crude oil
Trading View

Then came the Ukraine war, which further drove up prices of fundamental commodities, such as energy. This made inflation much worse than it would otherwise have been. You can see this reflected in consumer price inflation (CPI): it was just 0.6% in the year to June 2020, then rose to 2.5% in the year to June 2021, reflecting the supply constraints at the end of lockdown. By June 2022, four months after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, CPI was 9.4%.

The policy problem

This begs the question, why has the Bank of England (BoE) been raising rates if it’s unlikely to be effective? One answer is that other central banks have been raising rates. If the BoE doesn’t mirror rate rises in the US and eurozone, investors in the UK may move their money to these other areas because they’ll get better returns on bonds. This would see the pound depreciating against the US dollar and euro, in turn increasing import prices and aggravating inflation.

Part of the problem has been that the US has arguably faced more of the sort of demand-led inflation against which interest rates are effective. For one thing, the US has been less at the mercy of rising energy prices because it is energy self-sufficient. It also didn’t lock down as uniformly as other major economies during the pandemic, so had a little more space to grow.

At the same time, the US has been more effective at bringing down inflation than the UK, which again suggests it was fighting demand-driven price rises. In other words, the UK and other countries may to some extent have been forced to follow suit with raising interest rates to protect their currencies, not to fight inflation.

What next

How harmful have the rate rises been in the UK? They have not brought about a recession yet, but growth remains very weak. Lots of people are struggling with the cost of living, as well as rent or mortgage costs. Several million people are due to be hit by much higher mortgage rates as their fixed-rate deals end between now and the end of 2024.

UK GDP growth (%)

Chart showing the annual rate of GDP growth
Trading View

If hiking interest rates is not really helping to curb inflation, it makes sense to start moving in the opposite direction before the economic situation gets any worse. To avoid any damage to the pound, the answer is for the leading central banks to coordinate their policies so that they cut rates in lockstep.

Unless and until this happens, there would seem to be no quick fix available. One piece of good news is that the energy price cap for typical domestic consumption was reduced from October 1 from £1,976 to £1,834 a year. That 7% reduction should lead to consumer price inflation coming down significantly towards the end of 2023.

More generally, the Bank of England may simply have to hope that world events move inflation in the desired direction. A key question is going to be whether the wars in Ukraine and Israel/Gaza result in further cost pressures.

Unfortunately there is a precedent for a Middle East conflict leading to a global economic crisis: following the joint assault on Israel by Syria and Egypt in 1973, Israel’s retaliation prompted petroleum cartel OPEC to impose an oil embargo. This led to an almost fourfold increase in the price of crude oil.

Since oil was fundamental to the costs of production, inflation in the UK rose to over 16% in 1974. There followed high unemployment, resulting in an unwelcome combination that economists referred to as stagflation.

These days, global production is in fact less reliant on oil as renewables have become a growing part of the energy mix. Nonetheless, an oil price hike would still drive inflation higher and weaken economic growth. So if the Middle East crisis does spiral, we may be stuck with stubborn, untreatable inflation for even longer.

Robert Gausden does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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