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Italy's Ernest Airlines eyes international expansion

Italy’s Ernest Airlines could expand into European markets outside of Albania as soon as this winter, commercial director Ilza Xhelo discloses.

Speaking to FlightGlobal during Routes Europe in Belfast, Xhelo says the Milan Malpensa-based airline could begin flights to airports in northern and eastern Europe this winter or the 2018 summer season.

Ernest Airlines, which was previously a virtual airline, received its European air operator’s certificate on 11 April and has taken delivery of its first jet - a leased Airbus A319. The airline will take delivery of an A320 in June, another in December and a third A320 in April 2018 to give it a total fleet of four aircraft.

The airline has a mixture of Italian and Swedish investors.

Ernest Airlines is currently operating flights from 16 Italian cities into Albania’s Tirana airport. Flights from Malpensa and Bari will operate on a daily basis this summer, while the schedule for other Italian cities is still being decided, Xhelo says.

Xhelo describes Ernest as a “low fares” rather than a low-cost service carrier. The airline offers 180 seats on its A320s, including 15 business seats. She explains that Ernest offers business class seating and “wine and a snack” but does not provide a full business-class service.

Xhelo says that Ernest will soon begin talks with Italian national carrier Alitalia to discuss the possibility of “collaboration” on domestic flights. The airline already operates flights in a codeshare with Italian carrier Mistral Air.

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