Alitalia will be re-branded and is adopting a new strategic business plan following the completion of equity investments by Etihad Airways and Alitalia’s existing shareholders.
New financing arrangements for Alitalia by the carrier’s existing shareholders and by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, whose proposal to take a 49 per cent shareholding in Alitalia was approved by the European Union and the carrier’s existing shareholders in late 2014, were completed at the end of the year.
This was followed by a January 20 announcement that Alitalia would adopt new network, fleet, cost-management, airline partnership and customer-service strategies.
The Italian flag-carrier will also launch a new brand and visual identity, covering aircraft, uniforms and all other customer touch-points.
While the Alitalia name will remain unchanged, the new branding will seek to capture and embody the essence of Italy, according to the carrier’s major shareholders.
At a press conference in Rome on January 20, Etihad Airways and the carrier’s existing shareholders outlined the new business strategy for Alitalia, which its CEO Silvano Cassano stressed has been designed to move the carrier into profit by 2017.
Cassano predicted that Alitalia would report a €100 million ($116 million) profit in 2017.
Alitalia’s new business strategy centers round a new three-hub strategy in Italy. The airline will increase its long-haul services from its intercontinental hub at Milan Malpensa Airport, and will add new routes from its European hub at Milan Linate Airport to increase connectivity with partner-airline hubs.
At Rome’s Leonardi Da Vinci International Airport (also know as Rome Fiumicino Airport), Alitalia will grow its long-haul flying and continue to expand its short- and medium-haul flying to maintain relevance to the Italian market.
Alitalia’s new network strategy will also see schedules throughout its network optimized to allow better connectivity, as well as increased codesharing with existing and new airline partners.
Among them will be Alitalia’s new 49 per cent shareholder Etihad Airways and several European carriers in which the Abu Dhabi-based carrier already owns equity stakes.
New destinations that Alitalia will serve from Rome include Berlin, Dusseldorf, San Francisco, Mexico City, Santiago de Chile, Beijing and Seoul. Alitalia will also increase the frequencies of its flights linking Rome with New York, Chicago, Rio de Janeiro and Abu Dhabi.
Alitalia will also add 13 flights a week from Milan Malpensa, offering daily services to Abu Dhabi, four flights a week to Shanghai, and two additional flights to Tokyo.
Its network will also be bolstered to provide increased connectivity with Etihad Airways’ hub in Abu Dhabi. Alitalia will launch daily services to Abu Dhabi from Venice, Milan, Bologna and Catania, as well as additional flights from Rome.
All will allowing onward connections between Abu Dhabi to the Middle East, Africa, the Indian subcontinent, Southeast Asia, China and Australia.
Venice will be the only Italian airport, in addition to Rome Fiumicino and Milan Malpensa, from which Alitalia will operate services to Abu Dhabi with long-haul aircraft.
In addition to exploring further opportunities to deepen its existing relationships with other SkyTeam alliance members (in particular Air France/KLM and Delta), Alitalia will enter into a major new partnership with Airberlin and its subsidiary Niki.
Etihad Airways holds a strategic stake in Airberlin and thus also in Niki.
The new cooperation strategy for Alitalia also calls for it to offer increased connectivity with Etihad Airways.
Alitalia’s shareholders also have developed plans for the carrier to work more deeply with Air Serbia and Etihad Regional (the renamed Swiss regional carrier Darwin Airline), in both of which Etihad Airways holds equity stakes.
Additionally, Alitalia, Etihad Airways and Etihad’s other partners are exploring opportunities jointly to improve fleet efficiency.
As an initial example, Alitalia has begun relocating 14 Airbus A320 jets to Airberlin, and is looking into options with Etihad Airways to acquire additional widebody aircraft.
Alitalia will also have opportunities to receive aircraft from Etihad Airways’ existing fleet orderbook, according to the Abu Dhabi carrier.
Rome-based Alitalia will adopt a new customer-first culture, which will include the introduction of new product and service standards across the airline.
A new Customer Excellence Training Academy will provide all of Alitalia’s customer-facing staff with relevant customer skills, while the airline’s passengers will experience traditional Italian hospitality, new food-service options, and new-look lounges at Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate airports, Alitalia’s three hubs.
In the 2014-2015 winter season, the Alitalia Group, which includes Alitalia CityLiner (a regional airline with 15 Embraer 175 and five Embraer 190 regional jets in its fleet) is providing service to 83 destinations, of which 26 are in Italy and the other 57 are international destinations. In all, the group serves 124 routes and operates more than 3,650 flights a week.