Renzi Gets His Wings and EasyJet Lands in Venice – February 2

The “Italian Air Force One” has landed. During the early hours of Tuesday morning, Prime Minister Matteo Renzi’s refurbished super-jet touched down at Fiumicino Airport in Rome, replacing his old Airbus A319 Corporate Jet, which required stopovers for refueling on long-haul flights. The 10-year-old Airbus 340-541 was leased from Etihad Airways, ending its civilian career in October 2015 after 54,000 flight hours. It has been fitted with four new Rolls Royce motors,and is able to fly up to 16,700 kilometers (10,376 miles) non-stop, and will allow Renzi to remain in constant communication through WiFi via satellite. While exact leasing costs have yet to be revealed, industry sources say that expenses could run between 230,000 to 315,000 Euro per month ($250,000 to $340,000), excluding repairs and fuel. The plane will flown by fighter pilots from the 31st Wing of the Italian Air Force (Aeronautica Militare), which is based at Rome’s Ciampino Airport.

News of Renzi’s decision to upgrade his jet caused an uproar last fall, as critics claimed that the Prime Minister was wasting public funds unnecessarily. Retired Air Force General Leonardo Tricario, an ex-military advisor to Prime Ministers Silvio Berlusconi and Massimo D’Alema, called the choice “A clearly non-essential expense in a time when public expenditures are being restricted,” while Enrico Letta, the Prime Minister from 2013 to 2014, reminded reporters in September that during his time in office he “Reduced the fleet and sought to limit the number of official state flights.”

EasyJet, the UK-based low-cost airline carrier, is expanding operations at Venice’s Marco Polo International Airport. The inauguration ceremony took place on Monday, with Frances Ouseley, Director of Italian Operations for EasyJet, and the Mayor of Venice Luigi Brugnaro on hand for the debut of the company’s 27th base in Europe. Brugnaro commented that “The choice of Venice as a base demonstrates once again the infinite possibilities that our city offers…thank you to EasyJet for believing in the potential of Venice, a decision that will surely bring success to the company.” Four A319 Airbus aircrafts have been added to the fleet, along with ten new routes, with Edinburgh, Bristol, Copenhagen, Prague, and Stuttgart among the cities that will see increased service. EasyJet will now employ 150 personnel in Venice, allowing for up to 45 percent more weekly flights. The carrier began operating out of Venice in 1998, and now is the largest airline serving “La Serenissima,” with 12 million passengers per year.

The company’s new venture comes after it announced that would be abandoning operations at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport following a major fire in May 2015 which reduced airport capacity to 60 per cent. CEO Carolyn McCall stated in June that “We will reinforce ourselves in Italy, strengthening our presence at Milano-Malpensa, Venice, and Naples, where we believe there are the best opportunities for sustainable growth.” Service to Rome will cease completely in April.

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About Zachary Vogt

Zachary Vogt is originally from Washington, D.C., and received his undergraduate degree in Italian Studies at the University of Virginia. After graduation he moved to Italy to work at the U.S. Pavilion at Expo Milan 2015, serving as a Student Ambassador. Following completion of his M.A. in Italian Studies at NYU Florence, he plans to pursue a doctorate in Italian, concentrating on issues of immigration and demography.

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