Alitalia has joined the Air France-KLM Group and Delta Air Lines as a member of the transatlantic joint venture established by the latter three...

Alitalia has joined the Air France-KLM Group and Delta Air Lines as a member of the transatlantic joint venture established by the latter three carriers in the spring of 2009 after they received U.S. Department of Transportation and European Union anti-trust approval for the intra-SkyTeam Alliance grouping.

Launched in April 2009, the multi-party agreement created a single, coordinated network for customers flying across the Atlantic, allowing the member airlines to share revenues and costs on their trans-Atlantic routes.

Through the four-way joint venture, passengers have access to what the SkyTeam Alliance carriers claim is the world’s largest transatlantic network. Their joint transatlantic network offers almost 250 flights and approximately 55,000 seats each day and now includes 20 daily transatlantic flights to five U.S. destinations from Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci and Milan’s Malpensa airports.

The four airlines say that, with Alitalia’s addition, the joint venture represents approximately 26 per cent of total transatlantic capacity and has annual revenues estimated at more than US$10 billion.

Rome joins Amsterdam, Atlanta, Detroit, Minneapolis, New York JFK and Paris Charles de Gaulle as the core hubs of the joint venture, with additional transatlantic service from Cincinnati, Milan Malpensa, Memphis and Salt Lake City.

This Alitalia Airbus A321-100, registered I-BIXK, is seen landing at London Heathrow Airport

Wherever traffic rights permit, the airlines offer customers codeshare service between the United States and the European Union, and in many cases beyond, creating one network for seamless airline-to-airline connections between points in North America and the European Union.

The joint venture’s geographic scope includes all flights between North America and Europe, between Amsterdam and India and between North America and Tahiti.

“Today marks an important milestone in Alitalia’s development plan,” says Rocco Sabelli, Alitalia’s CEO . “Transatlantic traffic is the most strategic and competitive marketplace. Such an achievement highlights the valuable results obtained so far by Alitalia, and further opens-up opportunities for our industrial and commercial growth.”

“Delta’s partnership with Europe’s leading airlines has been a great success and has enabled us to add new destinations and convenience for customers across the United States and Europe,” says Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Air Lines. “The addition of Alitalia to our joint venture will further bolster our ability to optimize resources, protect revenues and provide more benefits for our employees and shareholders.”

“The transatlantic joint venture has been strengthened by the arrival of Alitalia, which adds the Italian market, the third biggest in Europe, to the JV and also gives it access to the Rome-Fiumicino hub,” says Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, CEO of Air France-KLM, which owns 25 per cent of Alitalia and has the right to buy additional shares in the Italian carrier from 2013. “The Italian airline, a SkyTeam member, is a strategic partner of Air France-KLM, with which it already has joint venture agreements on its Italy-France and Italy-Netherlands routes. It is therefore natural that this successful partnership should continue with Alitalia’s participation in the transatlantic JV.”

“The inclusion of Alitalia is an important step for the joint venture and will strengthen the position of the other JV partners in the very important Italian market,” says Peter Hartman, KLM’s president and CEO. “Our customers can now choose between multiple gateways in the U.S. as well as in Europe, via Amsterdam Schiphol, Paris Charles de Gaulle and Rome Fiumicino.”

Governance of the joint venture will be equally shared between Alitalia, the Air France-KLM Group and Delta. Alitalia representatives will immediately join the joint venture’s 11 working groups responsible for implementing and managing the agreement in the areas of network, revenue management, sales, product, frequent flyer, advertising/brand, cargo, operations, information technology, communications and finance. Alitalia also will be included in all joint venture initiatives, including joint sales contracts, which launched in January 2009.

The deal backdates Alitalia’s addition to the joint venture to April 1, 2010, as part of a long-term agreement effective until at least March 31, 2022.

Cooperation among Air France, KLM and Delta dates to 1997, when KLM signed a joint venture agreement with Northwest Airlines. Delta, which merged with Northwest in 2008, signed its own joint-venture agreement with Air France in 2007 following eight years of close transatlantic cooperation. In 2009, both joint ventures were combined into one following the Delta-Northwest and Air France-KLM mergers.

The airlines say dozens of new routes have been created as a result of their cooperation, including Delta’s first service to London-Heathrow from Atlanta, Minneapolis-St. Paul, Detroit and New York JFK. New nonstop service has also been launched between mid-sized cities such as Portland, Oregon and Amsterdam; Pittsburgh and Paris; and Salt Lake City and Paris.

Altogether, the expanded joint venture will offer nearly 250 daily trans-Atlantic flights and almost 500 destinations in Europe and in North America. It will have annual revenues estimated at more than US$10 billion. Air France-KLM has more than 100,000 employees, Delta has more than 70,000 and Alitalia has more than 14,000.