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Multi-airport system and territorial

competitiveness: evidence from an Italian case


study.
by Vincenzo Fasone* and Pasquale Maggiore**
Abstract
During last decades airport has been substantially transformed in a dynamic and
competitive industry. Today each airport faces the challenging task of coordinating
all the services provided to work efficiently. Airports need to find a way to
overcome economic and financial problems in a coherent attempt of definition of a
conceptual framework of the airport business as a whole.
Furthermore, some studies show how a specific linkage exists between territorial
competitiveness and airport system models. In effect, the existence of a
competitive airport, on one hand, can enhances the competitiveness of the local
system in which it operates and, in the other hand, the competitiveness of an
airport is strongly influenced by the existence in the area of industrial activities,
infrastructures and public services that work in a competitive manner.
In this context, an increasing relevance has the model of multi-airport system
(MAS) for a twofold reason: to overcome economic and financial issues and to
sustain the connection between airport system and territorial/local competitiveness.
The research uses as a methodological approach case study analysis. We made use
of the so-called purposive sampling, to obtain illustrative outlines of specific
reality through the analysis of particularly representative case. Empirical evidences
from the research highlight how the choice of the creation of a MAS can sustain
airport and local competitiveness.

Introduction
In the recent years, many studies on competition have investigated
the relationship existing between airport system and local

** Assistant Professor of Business Management, University Kore of Enna,


vincenzo.fasone@unikore.it
**** Ph.D. candidate in Technologies and Management of Aeronautical Infrastructure,
University Kore of Enna, pasquale.maggiore@unikore.it

development (Percoco, 2010; Siciliano and Zucchetti, 2006; Senn


and Zucchetti, 2001).
In fact, assuming that airport business is not only merely an
infrastructure or an economic activity, these research show how
airports can play a crucial role for increasing the competitiveness of a
territory.
In this sense, airports are absolutely fundamental elements within
the economic context for generating a multiplier effect on social and
economical competitiveness of a geographical area (Baccelli and
Zucchetti, 2001).
Thus, airports can generate economic and social value on two
different sides:
-

as business activity;
as infrastructure for the development of the regional economy.

Furthermore, some studies show how a specific linkage exists


between territorial competitiveness and airport system models. In
effect, the existence of a competitive airport, on one hand, can
enhances the competitiveness of the local system in which it operates
and, in the other hand, the competitiveness of an airport is strongly
influenced by the existence in the area of industrial activities,
infrastructures and public services that work in a competitive
manner.
An evidence of this concern the case of a number of significant
international experiences1 such as Schiphol Area in which lot of
companies choose to locate in the area surrounding the airport of
Amsterdam its logistics center and headquarters in Europe.
This establishes a virtuous circle between the airport and territory
under which the airport becomes an effective tool for local marketing
and its ability to increase the attractiveness of the area where it is
located makes it a conditioning element of the policies of territorial
1 Sinatra A. edited by (2001), Aeroporti e sviluppo regionale: rassegna di studi, Guerini,
Milano.

competition. Basically, then, in the airport system must balance two


key missions:
-

the first, refers to the identification of the airport as a primary


tool of trade, for the growing and competitive consolidation of
the geographic area and of its economic structure in national
and international markets;
the second, from a business point of view, related to the nature
of the company that operates in the airport, refers to the
production of economic results which will ensure the financial
sustainability of the business in the long term.

Relevance of the airport infrastructure for the socio-economic


development of the local area, then, makes these of strategic interest
for local institutions and various levels of government, causing a real
need to increase the number and type of stakeholder groups 2.
Then, to consider the relationship between airport system and
territory, in order to develop a coherent and appropriate analysis of
the dynamics it seems to be necessary the consideration of airport
services provider. The role played by air carriers, transportation and
handling companies, commercial operators within the airport is very
important for understanding in a better way the dynamics of airport
business management.
At the same time, moreover, can not be ignored the fundamental
role played by the various agencies of regulatory and control.
All together represent those individuals from whom, in the airport,
develop relationships aimed to the real and appropriate functioning
of air transport infrastructures.
In synthesis, the main stakeholders are: shareholders, employees,
airlines, lobbies, banks and others financial institutions, public
institutions of regulation and control, local community, etc.

2 Cepolina S. (2007), Il contributo di un approccio manageriale alla gestione di


infrastrutture aeroportuali: il caso di Orio al Serio, in atti IX Riunione Scientifica della
Societ Italiana degli Economisti dei Trasporti, Napoli.

The following table shows in more detail the different types of


stakeholders of the airport company.

Background
Starting from the previous considerations it is possible to better
understand the impact of the transportation industry on the territorial
development.
By considering also regulatory changes occurred in the sector,
during last years some Scholars have focused their attention on the
topics of airports companies management.
In fact, gradually abandoning the monopoly perspective3, this
typology of firms started to manage economically (i.e. effectively
and efficiently) one or more airports, with the aim to boost both
companys and territorial development.
In this context, the configuration of a multi-airport system (MAS)
it seems to be a potential key element for local competitiveness.
In effect, the MAS could be a model for this industry particularly
interesting because of the possibility to get a good balance between
social and economical goals. In this way, the analysis of a MAS can
be conducted, at least, under two different strategic point of view:
-

socio-territorial;
financial-economical.

According to de Neufville (1995), MAS is the set of airports that


serve the traffic of a metropolitan area4. For example, the MAS in
London is formed, in addition to Heathrow, Gatwick and Stansted
3

Doganis R. (1992), The airport business, Routledge, London.

4 de Neufville R. (1995), Management of multi-airport system. A development


strategy, in Journal of Air Transport Management, vol. 2 (2).

airports, which are under the ownership and management of the


British Airport Authority (BAA), also by the independent Luton
Airport.
A MAS, consistent with the definition cited above, is also defined
as the set of two or more major airports that serve commercial
traffic within a metropolitan region5 .
According to these definitions, the crucial element to define a
multi-airport system is the territorial one. In contrast, in this paper a
managerial approach is developed in order to highlight the
importance that companies ownership and management can play in
the identification of a multi-airport system.
The definitions provided by the literature, focusing only on the
territorial aspect and considering generally all airports located in a
geographical area - more or less wide - as part of a system, it seems
not perfectly adequate to describe the real configuration of a MAS.
Unlikely, these definitions can be accepted without the correct
consideration of all aspects relating to the governance of the system.
In the light of this, an essential element for the identification of a
MAS is the integrated direction and coordination of the airports
belonging to the system, which serves the air traffic of a defined
area, at a metropolitan or regional level.
Then, a first attempt of classification of the different multi-airport
system might be done considering both the geographical aspect
(metropolitan or regional) and the managerial integration.
Tab. 1 A first attempt of classification of multi-airport system

High

II

Managerial
integration

5 Bonnefoy F., de Neufville R., Asce L. and Hansmann J. (2010), Evolution and
development of multi airport systems: a worldwide perspective, in Journal of
Transportation Engineering, vol. 136 (11).

Managerial
integration
Low

III

IV

Regional

Metropolitan

Geographical area

In this way, we can define as a MAS, from a business


management point of view, only I and II cases characterized by an
high level of managerial integration of different airports belonging to
regional or metropolitan area. In these cases in fact, regardless of the
ownership and the number of companies, airports are managed in an
integrated and coordinated manner.
In the other cases (III and IV) is not configurable a MAS because
the airports are not submitted to an high level of managerial
integration and lacks, then, of any coordination.
A MAS indeed, now omitting the geographical aspect, is a set of
airports that, through more or less formal agreements, tacit or
explicit, form a real network.
In other words, it refers to a set of airports that share a common
strategic plan - regardless of ownership or control relationships - as
a result of a voluntary process of strategies definition which,
respecting the territorial vocation of each individual airport, aim to
compose a coherent framework of development of the system.
In this sense, the following table shows a potential way through
which can enrich the first classification, by encompassing on one
hand the ownership and management integration or differentiation
and on the other hand the strategic planning integration or
differentiation.
Tab. 2 A new attempt of classification of multi-airport system

Integrated

II

III

IV

Integrated

Differentiated

Ownership
and
management
Differentiated

Strategic planning

The table shows how there are some cases in which several
airports - with a common ownership and management - adopt an
integrated strategic planning and follow a consistent and shared
mission (I) or, despite an integrated ownership and management,
each single airport defines and follows a differentiated strategies (II).
In the other cases - characterized by differentiated ownership and
management - the regional or metropolitan airports define and
follow, through more or less formal agreements, shared strategies
(III) or, instead, seek independent and single strategic plan (IV).
In the light of the above, a set of airports can be classified as a
multi-airport system when there is an adequate level of coordination
and integration between its components not only by a territorial point
of view but also by a managerial perspective. In other words, one can
speak of the system when the relations between the components,
usually understood in terms of strength-weakness, are seen in a
collaborative manner leading to a value creation approach6.

6 Normann R. and Ramirez R. (1993), From the value chain to the value costellation:
designing interactive strategy, in Harvard Business Review, July-August.

Moreover, as emphasized by Chandler 7, cooperation between


companies is one of the most plausible and fruitful paths of
development in a global context, in which it is difficult to believe
that a single entity may, in some way, be self-sufficient.
This is common to medium and large enterprises and it is
considered true, a fortiori, with reference to the activity of small
businesses, which often face to associative and cooperative strategies
as a path for their continuity and development 8.
The networks in fact, defined as sets of cooperative relations
organized, non-collusive, functional for inter-action between
businesses, independent in competitive terms, for the exploitation of
complementarities and specific competences and access to the
opportunities offered by complex development of environment9 , can
enables10:
-

to obtain the minimum size for the implementation of certain


strategies;
to achieve specific economies (for example: scale and scope);
to manage and reduce risks;
to overcome barriers or exploit opportunities of legislation;
to influence industry dynamics and competition.

Network, in other words, can be defined as a quid heterogeneous


and complex, involving a number of actors driven by specific and
shared objectives. The case of multi-airport system according to this
hypothesis it seems to be a specific example of a well-functioning
network.

7 Chandler A.D. (1990), Scale and scope: the dynamics of industrial capitalism, Balknap
Press, Cambridge.
8 Ruisi M. (2004), Analisi strategica. Per una ricerca delle determinanti del successo
aziendale, Giuffr, Milano.
9 Albertini
10

S. (1991), Gli accordi strategici, Egea, Milano.

Cassandro P.E. (1982), I gruppi aziendali, Cacucci, Bari.

Martn and Voltes (2011) compared the different levels of


efficiency that are found in MAS to that obtained in the case in
which airports services were aggregated. Because of the results
indicate the presence of non-exhausted scale economies at the current
levels of production, it concludes that the atomization of air traffic
increases operating costs at a system level11.
Curi et al. evaluate the efficiency of Italian airports by analyzing
the production process from two perspectives: physical and
financial12. The airport, in fact, could be considered as a multiproduct firm, where disparate elements and activities are brought
together to facilitate, for passengers/customers and freight, an
interchange between air and surface transport.
In their study, they argue that airport dimension is not necessarily
critical in creating differences in operational efficiency in Italian
airports and assumes, instead, greater weight when the entire
business is considered.
In synthesis, as shown also in the Portugueses experience13, the
results of these research demonstrate how, especially for the existing
small airports, the creation of an airport network, by reducing the
duplication of services, can promote a widespread and noncentralized regionals development.
Aim and hypothesis of the work
In this study we seek to understand if, and under which
conditions, multi-airport system might be implemented to sustain the
durable competitiveness both at a business and at a territorial level.

11 Martn J. C. and Voltes-Dorta A. (2011), The dilemma between capacity expansions


and multi-airport systems: Empirical evidence from the industrys cost function, in
Transportation Research, vol. 47, n. 3.
12 Curi C., Gitto S. and Mancuso P. (2011), New evidence on the efficiency of Italian
airports: A bootstrapped DEA analysis, in Socio-Economic Planning Sciences, vol. 45 (2).
13 Marques R. C. (2011), Together or separately? The efficiency and market structure
of Portuguese airports, in Journal of Air Transport Management, vol. 17 (2).

Where this positive outcome is achieved we seek to determine what


role was played by managers and public decision-makers.
The analysis uses data from the experience of the case of Puglias
airports. These are interesting laboratories implemented using the
framework of local development policies defined by European Union
funding.
The basic hypothesis of the study is that a good multi-airport
system can contribute significantly to local territorial development if,
and only if, it is supported by the definition and subsequent
enactment of specific and effective coordinated managerial approach
for the functioning of the activities and is also assisted by effective
partnership-building action.
In this sense, the related hypothesis is that the implementation of a
good multi-airport system can be useful:

to overcome economic and financial issues related to the


airport business;
to sustain the connection between airport system and
territorial/local competitiveness.

Method
The methodological approach used is the case analysis. To carry
out a research through the use of case studies is like performing
laboratory experiments (Yin, 1994).
More specifically, the analysis of a number of case studies usually
presents specific advantages and drawbacks when compared with a
method that has but one case. The results of a research based upon
more cases are often considered more effective, and more generally
the whole study is considered stronger. On the other hand, the depth
of analysis reachable through the single case cant be usually
achieved through multiple case method. rare cases, critical cases
and revelatory cases often are single cases (Saunders, Lewis, and
Thornhill, 2003).
10

In this research, for the selection of case studies we have used a


non probabilistic (judgemental), sampling technique. We used socalled purposive sampling, often used to obtain illustrative outlines
of specific realities through the use of particularly representative
cases.
The study was carried out, and the relevant analysis performed
with data directly gathered by the website and by financial reports or
through semi-structured interviews. Interviews enabled us to confirm
the analysis of the gathered data.
The previous remark does not preclude the generalization of the
result, although not in statistical grounds, if it is compared to
situations in which one can observe similar characteristics of the
context.

Case study analysis: the experience of Aeroporti di Puglia


S.p.A.
Introduction
The company Aeroporti di Puglia S.p.A., established in
February 1984, obtained in 2003 by ENAC the total management
contract of (until 2043) for the design, development, implementation,
adaptation, management, maintenance and use of facilities and
airport infrastructure of airports of Puglia region (i.e.: Bari, Brindisi,
Foggia and Taranto).
Other companies activities refers to the handling, security services
and other non-aviation. In fact, the company may, also, carry out all
commercial and financial operations useful for the achievement of its
goals.
Companys profile
As already mentioned, the company was created in 1984 under the
name of SEAP S.p.A. to become, in 2006, Aeroporti di Puglia
S.p.A. (AdP). AdP has, according to data from the 2009 annual
financial report, a share capital of about 13,000,000 subscribed,
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almost entirely, from Puglia Region and, marginally, by local and


economic authorities.
Consistently with the framework already defined, it is configured
as a multi-airport system subjected to the management of a single
legal entity in which the main shareholder is the Puglia Region. It is,
therefore, a situation in which the integrated ownership and
management is exercised from a public entity that clearly aims to
define an harmonious development of the business and of the
regions territory.
The company manages a complex multi-airport system that results
in a step of strong growth. This evolutionary trend has occurred since
2003 and, a decline affected the airports of Bari and Foggia in 2005,
shows significant growth rates in passenger traffic.
In 2009, the indicator that measures the number of aircraft
movements (Air Transport Movements) amounted to 44,395 between
landings and take-offs, the number of passengers almost 4 million
units and transport the cargo 3,400 tons (ENAC, 2010).

4.500.000

6.000

4.000.000
5.000
3.500.000

Passengers

3.000.000

4.000

2.500.000
3.000
2.000.000
1.500.000

2.000

Passenge
rs
Cargo

1.000.000
1.000
500.000
0

0
2000 2001 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009

Year

Fig. 1 Passengers and cargo traffic of Puglia airports. Source: Dati traffico, 2009.

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Regarding the financial aspects, detectable considering the annual


financial reports of the years 2007, 2008 and 2009, we can say that
the results were somewhat fluctuating.
First, with respect to capital assets, it emphasizes an increase in
total assets determined largely by an increase of tangible and
intangible assets (financial ones are reduced) which is also
accompanied by a slight increase in current assets; the increase in
activity, however, has been supported, significantly in 2008, through
a substantial increase in short-term debt, which were reduced (about
50% in 2009).
The total amount of sources, however, draws the uses through a
relevant increase (about 240%) in accrued expenses and deferred
income determined by massive fees for freely transferable assets, for
facilities provided by the National Operational Programme (PONCIPE) and contributions for the opening of new routes.
Referring to the income components, although the revenues is
steadily increasing, the operating profit was positive in the years
2007 and 2009 and largely negative (-4,844,055 ) in 2008, due to a
significant increase in other operating expenses 14.
In addition, the financial area shows a negative result, while the
extraordinary area, ontologically ungovernable, it shows largely
negative results in 2008 (-2,509,834 ) only partially compensated
by the positive data obtained in 2007 and 2009.
The global net result was slightly positive in the last annual report
(+558,129 ) and largely negative in 2008 (-7,634,575 ).
Strategic business planning and territorial development
The non-exciting results, highlighted above, may be somehow
linked to the difficulties that AdP has faced and which are related to
the events of the Italian carrier Alitalia.
Nevertheless, the AdP management has tried to anticipate the
collapse of national carrier by developing the supply of air mobility
14 As shown in the notes to the 2008 annual report, was detected a loss on loans largely
attributable to Alitalia of 4,955,686.55 .

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from Puglia airports of type point to point, with the gradual


inclusion of the low cost in domestic and international routes, at
detriment of the management model hub and spoke of Alitalia that
favors the transition from the airports of Rome-Fiumicino and MilanMalpensa.
The foresight of AdP, in fact, led to seek strategic partnerships
with carriers in the past had a marginal role. In 2002 the supply of
Alitalia affected for about 80% on the supply of air transport in
Puglia and Brindisi, actually, there was only one not Alitalia flight.
With regard to the strategies followed, with the primary objective
to allow Puglia to assume an important role in building networks,
tangible and intangible, that promote to economic integration in the
European and Mediterranean area, the management of AdP jointly
operated in three directions:
-

activate two operating bases operated by Ryanair;


increase frequencies toward major domestic and European
destinations;
ensure the link effectively with the most important hub of
reference for international and intercontinental networks.

These strategic guidelines are pursued through several actions. In


this light, in fact, must be read a series of agreements with some
carriers such as Ryanair, Air Berlin, Wizz Air, Tarom Carpatair that,
despite the crisis of the carrier Myair, produced remarkable results
both in terms of connectivity - with the most important region of
Europe - and in terms of fares.
Moreover, thanks to the guideline of the European Commission
that established a regulatory framework to allow for regional airports
to grant subsidies to air carriers for the opening of new routes (start
up), AdP has defined a system of contributions to the development of
air routes with origin or destination airports of Puglia, which led to
the activation of 26 new links.
The strategic decisions, briefly mentioned above, received full
support from the Puglia Region, through the Regional Department of
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Tourism, shared a project to the activation of promotional activities


in support of the development policies of incoming tourism and with
the aim of qualifying the image of the Puglia Region in the origin
markets of tourist flows. These and other activities, briefly outlined,
show have allowed a progressive reduction of the impact on total
revenues generated by relations with Alitalia that, at the close of the
2008, touching 18%.
Furthermore, in order to promote the territorys development, the
Region is trying to extend the catchment area of Puglias airport to
areas more distance (Molise, Abruzzo, Basilicata, Campania,
Calabria) reducing the connection time trough important
infrastructural investment. In this sense, in addition to rail, the
Regional Department of Transport has boosted the road transport
trough the definition and funding of the project Pugliairbus.
Concerning planning, the company of airports management
decided to implement a master plan, integrated development
planning tool, designed with the intent to intercept and convey the
real needs of traffic.
The master plan, a tool for decision making, is an essential
document to define the characteristics of intervention, financing
sources and collaborative strategies with the regional area. It
produced in collaboration with ENAC and may be considered a
prototype model of strategic planning of Italian airports.
Final discussion
The case of Puglia airports, however, in a perspective that moves
from general to particular, is an emblematic case of creating a multiairport system as a tool for regional development.
It represents a concrete attempt of realization of a MAS, in which
a single legal entity, with major shareholder Puglia Region, is
delegated to the government of four regional airports.
The multi-airport system, as highlighted above, it is a path that
can facilitate, together, the missions that company of airport
management should reconcile:
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financial sustainability for the single airport;


social and economic development of the area.

The first profile, economic and financial sustainability, suggests


the formation of multi-airport especially to secondary airports that,
when define autarkic policies that lack any logical reticular, preclude
the possibility of continuity and compromise, moreover, the
development of the territory in which insist.
In this context, achieve conditions for continuity and
development depends, substantially, of the level of air transport
movements and the ability to offer a specialized services, in
compliance with the vocation of the individual areas served by
airports, avoid duplication of supply of the system with consequent
and inevitable cannibalization of system service.
Referring to the second point, social and territorial development,
the creation of a multi-airport appears to be important, although not
essential, for the revitalization of regional or metropolitan areas. This
revitalization cannot be separated, clearly, by the adoption of a
logical system which allows to reason in overall terms and involve
the major stakeholders.
In light of the above, we can highlight certain difficulties related
to the creation of a regional airport network.
First, the main problems are largely caused to an air traffic that,
although increasing, is not enough, a partial specialization of
secondary airports of Foggia and Taranto and, more generally, the
lack of a transport infrastructures that enable a more rapid and
economical connection also intra-regional.
Despite the difficulties, however, the path undertaken is
particularly interesting and potentially successful.
Puglia, in fact, intends to establish an airport system that modern,
efficient, with high levels of service and fully integrated with the
territory, promotes an harmonic process of economic and social
development of the region, strengthening the role and image in the
Mediterranean area.
16

In other words, the regional multi-airport managed by AdP,


understanding the a need to achieve in the long term, solid and
sustainable economic and financial conditions, is one of the main
tools that the region has at its disposal to achieve its strategy of
social development-territorial.

Conclusions and implications for further research


Although still far from full and complete implementation of a
multi-airport system, sustainable in economic, financial and
patrimonial terms, in which the components (airports) define
strategies perfectly complementary and follow a common strategic
plan, Puglia seems to be beginning a development path from the
results unpredictable, and therefore risky, but potentially positive
from all points of view.
In general this research seems to demonstrate that the basic
hypothesis, those according to which a good multi-airport system can
contribute significantly to local territorial development if, and only
if, it is supported by a coordinated managerial approach, it is valid.
In this sense, the MAS can be useful to better perform in
economical and financial terms, and for improving territorial/local
competitiveness.
In conclusion, it should be noted that a multi-airport system, result
of a complex and nonlinear path, and it is not the only way forward
nor, even less, a solution valid in any space-time context.

17

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