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Etihad And Alitalia Unveil Network Details

Etihad And Alitalia Unveil Network Details

Sicily set to be the fifth Italian destination connected to Abu Dhabi

Alitalia and Etihad Airways unveiled new strategic and network details in Rome on Tuesday following the Abu Dhabi airline’s 49 per stake in the Italian carrier.

One of the most interesting slides was the inclusion of Catania in Sicily, set to be the fifth destination linking Abu Dhabi with Italy (and first link with any UAE carrier) and complementing services to Rome, Bologna, Milan and Venice.

Alitalia President Luca di Montezemolo said: “Catania is going to play a key role. Small and medium-sized enterprises in Italy require mobility and access to global markets but you have to give them the right tools.” He added tourism, which has suffered a “high price”, will be a key revenue driver too as the airline seeks to return to profitability within three years.

Both airlines have set out a three-year plan for Alitalia which will focus on debt and cost reduction and productivity improvements this year, seek to stem losses and break-even by 2016 and return the airline to operating profit by 2017.

Fleet efficiency moves will see 14 A320s sold to fellow Etihad partner AirBerlin and it is exploring opportunities “to reassign new aircraft from Etihad’s existing order book”. Alitalia CEO Silvano Cassano said its fleet investment programme will see Panasonic libraries installed on board “and wifi on each and every aircraft”.

Alitalia’s new long-haul routes from Milan Malpensa this year include Tokyo and Shanghai and it aims to raise long-haul flights from 11 to 25 a week by 2018. Long-haul flights from Rome will rise from 87 to 113 per week by mid-2018. Milan’s other airport, Linate, is also to be “maximised” as both carriers seek to compete with other European markets, particularly Germany.

While Alitalia’s American network is strong, its new links with Etihad will enable it to capitalise on regions where it is less prevalent such as China, the Indian Subcontinent, south-east Asia and Australasia.

Di Montezemolo warned the airline “is still losing large amounts of money” but Etihad Airways’ President and CEO James Hogan appeared to close the door on further investment. “There’s no free kicks or endless reserves of cash, we want to see return on investment,” he said.

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