BA Italian franchise NJI to launch in July

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British Airways' (BA) long-standing project with Australia's National Jet Systems to launch a franchised operation in Italy has finally come to fruition with the planned launch of start-up operation National Jet Italia (NJI).

NJI is being developed from NJS as a BA franchisee to commence domestic flights from Rome on 11 July. NJS has been owned since April by UK defence and aerospace group Cobham, but a spokesman for the parent said he was not aware of the Italian project.

Initially NJI will operate four-times a day services to the Sicilian destinations of Palermo and Catania but BA says it plans to increase frequencies to eight a day and is eyeing further domestic Italian destinations.

The airline, BA's eleventh franchise partner, will operate two-class configured British Aerospace BAe 146 aircraft, featuring 12 business class and 82 economy class seats.

Italy represents BA's third largest European market after the UK and Germany. It operates 230 flights a week between the two countries, serving nine cities in Italy not including Palermo and Catania.

NJS, which also uses BAe 146 aircraft, is a franchise operator for BA alliance partner Qantas.