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How does an airport become a virtual hub?

June 18, 2021

When’s powerful algorithm combines with Milan Malpensa Airport’s ViaMilano service

Milan Malpensa Airport has chosen to partner with for the relaunch of their Self-Connect ViaMilano service. The airport was one of the first to recognize the value of self-connecting traffic, initially launching a supporting service in 2012.

Travelers who book a self-connect itinerary through Milan Malpensa Airport will now gain access to the ViaMilano Smart Pass, enjoying a swift stopover experience covered by this FastTrack service. The service is activated for tickets booked on’s web or Milan Malpensa Airport’s booking platform with a layover less than 3 hours. Self-Connect algorithm can transform an airport into a virtual hub

Interview with Marco Magnasciutti, Senior Account Manager for Airports at

When does an airport become a hub? 

Not all airports can claim the status of a hub. The airport usually becomes a hub if there’s a major national legacy carrier based there, for example, Frankfurt airport with Lufthansa airline. Such an airport hub allows passengers to travel from A to B with a single ticket using the same airline (or a partner airline) and connecting them within the terminals.

If you take the situation that the airport is not a hub, but it wants to grow beyond natural point-to-point traffic (based on the destinations served from the airport), then the only option is to attract people who are not just intent on reaching that given airport as the final destination.

They would want to use the airport to take another flight, most likely flying with another carrier who is not necessarily a partner of the flight they arrived with. The airport supporting Virtual Interlining itineraries such as this can then become a self-styled virtual hub, by providing connections that are not managed by an airline or a group of airlines but created directly by passengers or by platforms like that build those unique self-connecting itineraries for their customers.

What is the perfect scenario for an airport to become a virtual hub and activate a Self-Connect service?  

Self-Connect is virtually possible anywhere, but to be realistic the ideal scenario for an airport is to have at least a certain number of destinations with daily flights and a good mix of low-cost and legacy carriers, where low-cost offers dominate.

A big airport with many low-cost connections serving a total of 90 destinations has a great chance of becoming a virtual hub, as many travelers will use the airport as a connecting point. Even regional airports can become hubs using ground to air itineraries, combining’s multi-modal algorithm to connect bus, train and flight itineraries into one booking.

Why is the Self-Connect service becoming more and more popular within airports? 

The Virtual Interlining, or Self-Connect, algorithm is becoming more popular because it offers unique itineraries to any traveler. Such itineraries are often cheaper and provide many alternatives to reach the final destination, predominantly due to making it possible to mix low-cost and legacy carriers into a single itinerary. Sometimes this is the only way to reach the final destination from a traveler’s home airport.

If we think about Europe, low-cost carriers (LCCs) are spreading their networks, even during the last “pandemic” year. LCCs reach regional and local airports, while legacy carriers serve major airports with medium and long-haul flights. Airports have started to recognize the importance of the lost passengers’ traffic. That’s why many airports are willing to invest in stopover programs and are choosing to partner with in promoting their service and attracting more passengers.

What other countries and regions already use Self-Connect service? And where do you see the potential of new virtual hubs?

At present, our Airport partners are mainly located in Europe thanks to the high number of low-cost carriers operating in the market, including countries like Italy, Germany, Hungary, the Czech Republic, and France. Some of our recent program activations include Prague Airport with their Fly Via Prague service and Berlin Brandenburg Airport with their VIA BER service. We also support Self-Connect service activation in the Americas and Asian airports.

For airports that are not virtual hubs yet, there’s potential to benefit from their geographical position. For example, an airport located in the center of Europe can be the natural connection point for East-West and North-South traffic. But we also need to consider that often travelers choose the self-connect itineraries based on the price, even if they have to stay on a plane longer, so even if an airport doesn’t have the best geographical position, but has a wide network, it is eligible for success.

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