Alitalia to revitalise long-haul network: Hogan

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Alitalia will add 10 new long-haul routes with some at the “key hub” of Rome Fiumicino and others from Milan Malpensa and Linate as part of a strategy of “taking the battle to other carriers” following its tie-up with Etihad Airways, says the Gulf carrier’s chief executive James Hogan.

Disclosing a new network strategy for the Italian carrier in Rome today, Hogan identified an aim to grow Alitalia’s long-haul routes and link Italy's major cities via Abu Dhabi to Etihad’s network and those of its other partners such as Virgin Australia to drive connectivity and reach.

“If you think of Australia, with Virgin coming up through the Gulf into Europe; with Air Berlin and Alitalia; with a codeshare partner in Air France and KLM coming out of Europe going east – there is no more powerful confederation of partners," says Hogan.

“Consolidation is fundamental. We are going to exit some nonperforming routes, which we will announce in the coming weeks. We are certainly going to build more long-haul flying, which you will see in the new network programmes, and add further connections throughout the network over Abu Dhabi.”

Among the changes will be new direct flights to Abu Dhabi from Bologna, Catania and Venice, starting from the summer of 2015.

Rome Fiumicino will be developed into a “larger European intercontinental hub”, with up to five new routes over the next four years, while long-haul flights from Milan Malpensa will more than double to 25 flights a week by 2018.

Hogan says the carriers intend to take advantage of the positioning of Milan and will look at “taking the battle to other carriers” from the gateways of Malpensa and Linate.

Alitalia’s widebody fleet will grow by 32%, and the airline will seek to take “advantage of the strong relationship with Delta, KLM and Air France” as well as with Etihad’s equity partner airlines in Europe.

But the Etihad chief admits there will also be the need to “rightsize” the airline. This will include a 13% reduction of the narrowbody fleet, and Alitalia will need to “bring down some of the short-haul flying”, he says.

Beginning with the winter schedule, Alitalia will increase frequencies between Rome Fiumicino and Abu Dhabi from five flights per week to a daily service. It will also start a new daily service between Milan Malpensa and Abu Dhabi.