Come October 15th Alitalia will cease operations; Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) will take its place as Italy’s flag carrier. Except that the Alitalia name will still probably be in business. ITA confirms that it intends to bid on the Alitalia brand at auction as part of its application to serve the United States.
The carrier also laid out plans to quickly replace Alitalia’s historical service on four US routes, with another quartet to follow in 2022 and 2023.
ITA will focus its operations in Rome rather than Milan, hoping that tourism can drive a successful business. Initial routes to the US include JFK, Miami and Boston. The JFK-Milan route will also return.
In 2022, the carrier intends to add Washington-Dulles and Los Angeles service. In 2023, San Francisco and Chicago are slated to join the network. While none of these routes are particularly surprising the 2023 expansion is not included in the company’s current website.
A challenging transition
Alitalia halted sales for travel later than 15 October earlier this week, owing to the planned transition. But ITA cannot sell tickets in the United States until the DOT grants the application. And while there is no reason to believe the application will be declined, there is also no assurance it will be approved prior to the planned transition six weeks from now.
Aer Lingus UK filed a similar application in December of last year. At that time it did not hold an operating permit from the UK; ITA is in a better position on that front. But the UK operating certificate for Aer Lingus UK came six weeks ago and its US authority remains pending.
ITA can sell flights originating in Europe for service to the US. It does not, however, appear to be doing so yet. Searches for US routes on the site return an error. Similar errors are returned for other long-haul markets such as Tokyo. Regional European routes are available for purchase.
New fleet, new loyalty
ITA expects to operate 52 aircraft, including 7 wide-bodies, when it officially launches. Plans call for that to increase to 78 aircraft (13 twin-aisle) in 2022 and up to 105 (23) by 2025. The future state anticipates 81 new-generation aircraft (77% of the entire fleet).
The carrier also promises in-flight internet service on its long-haul fleet. Given mention of the AeroMobile cellular roaming service we can safely assume it plans to keep the Panasonic Avionics kit active on board and extend that relationship.
The company also intends to launch a brand new loyalty program after it launches operations. It describes the program as “totally focused on the customer needs of flexibility and accessibility to flights.” But it also still needs to select a technology partner for implementation, so it could be a while before that’s ready to fly.
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