Alitalia has made a return to the South African market after a 16-year absensce.

Italy's flag carrier today began a four-times-weekly Rome-Johannesburg service. The flights are being operated with a 250-seat Airbus A330 in three-class configuration.

"We are delighted to be back in South Africa and especially OR Tambo International airport, which remains the busiest airport in Africa and a gateway to the region," states Alitalia commercial chief Fabio Maria Lazzerini. "This was always an important market for us, and we are pleased that the process of restructuring and realignment of Alitalia has now permitted us to return."

OR Tambo's general manager Bongiwe Pityi describes Alitalia's timing as "apt", citing local-authority plans to create an "aerotropolis" in the region.

"The engine of an aerotropolis is the airport and its air routes, which offer businesses speed and connectivity," adds Pityi. "We are especially pleased to note that the return of Alitalia is as a direct result of the collaboration between ourselves, the Gauteng province, the City of Ekurhuleni, Gauteng Tourism, and the Gauteng Growth and Development Agency."

FlightGlobal schedules data shows no direct competition to Alitalia on the route to Johannesburg from Italy's capital.

Under the carrier's ongoing sale process, interested parties have until the end of this month to submit their bids.

Source: Cirium Dashboard