Tourism Industry News

Alitalia Says Fliers Back Despite Delays

14/05/2009 10:04

Passengers are returning to fly with the restructured Alitalia despite lingering union issues and a barrage of complaints over flight delays, the Italian airline's chief executive said on Wednesday.


Italy's national airline went bankrupt last year and was sold to a group of private investors, who relaunched it in January as a smaller airline with fewer staff.


Air France-KLM bought a 25 percent stake in the relaunched carrier, which hopes to re-conquer the fourth-largest aviation market in Europe amid a severe industry downturn and stiff competition from a new high-speed rail service.


But the airline has had a difficult rebirth, with low occupancy rates initially, sporadic threats by unions to go on strike and delayed flights that drew the ire of passengers.


CEO Rocco Sabelli acknowledged the airline had struggled with punctuality in April but said the situation had improved. Flight occupancy rates have also been rising, with the load factor for flights to or from Rome rising to 68 percent in April from a low of 48 percent in January, he said.


"There has undoubtedly been a recovery of confidence after the episodes of December and January which were a big shock," Sabelli told a news conference at Rome's Fiumicino airport, which serves as the airline's main base now.


Alitalia plans to sign a deal soon with Rome's airport operator Aeroporti di Roma worth EUR100 million euros a year as part of the airline's greater presence here, he said. Air France-KLM chief executive Jean-Cyril Spinetta also gave Alitalia a vote of confidence last week, saying the relaunch had been going as planned and that its finances are stronger than expected.


Sabelli said the airline has been looking at ways to attract customers on the lucrative Rome-Milan route and plans to introduce new features such as a ticket subscription service and live television and email on board in the coming months.


"It's a route that has to be defended and we have to defend it by being more efficient," said Sabelli. Alitalia filed for bankruptcy in August after years of losses due to strikes and inefficiencies. The assets that were not bought by the group of investors are being liquidated.


Source: AirWise


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