Alitalia reveals newroute strategy

KOLTSOVO airport

Alitalia will overhaul itsnetwork toreinforce Fiumino's hubrole, boost poin-to-point atLinate andfocus itsroutes onMilan andRome.

In a new industrial plan for 201316, Alitalia is planning a host of changes to its route network to seize new international opportunities and streamline connections.

With extra six aircraft due to join its long-haul fleet by 2016, the Italian flag carrier aims to fly new high-potential routes and to ramp up current services.

In particular, Alitalia has its eye on foreign cities with large Italian communities in countries such as Canada, the US, Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, South Africa and Australia.

But another element in the new route map will be fewer flights between Rome and Milan.

Alitalia has announced its aim of developing "intermodal connections between aviation and high-speed rail".

In the meantime, slots liberated at Linate from flights to Rome will be used for new point-to-point international connections serving Northern Italy and, in particular, its businesspeople.

Under the new plan, routes will be funnelled into the three key gateways of RomeFiumicino, Milan Malpensa and Milan Linate

Linate will launch flights to Copenhagen, Budapest, Vienna, Stockholm,Helsinki, Malta, Tallinn and Prague. Meanwhile, Malpensa will serve non-EU destinations such as Cairo, Tunis, Moscow and Tirana.

From Rome, Alitalia is considering new flights to Nuremberg, Lviv, Bordeaux, Skopje, Zagreb, Sarajevo, Ankara, Marrakech, Misurata, Minsk, Basel, Marseille, Rostov, Pristina, Damascus andErbil.

A further route expansion will come through the introduction of "high-potential" routes from winter 2014 to winter 2016.

From Rome, Alitalia has its eye on flights to Nairobi, Seoul, Santiago de Chile, San Francisco andJohannesburg. Malpensa may launchShanghai, Abu Dhabi and Osaka. Venice could operate flights to Tokyo.

Underpinning the route overhaul is a re-hubbing project at Fiumicino, which will launch in October for winter 2013-14 to improve connections for domestic, international and intercontinental flights.

Among other changes, businesspeople can look forward to more early morning departures and evening returns to European destinations, said the carrier.

But in parallel with its long-haul expansion to meet rising traffic for Eastern Europe, North and South America and the Far East, Alitalia is also confronting a plunge in domestic traffic.

In short- and medium-haul, the flag carrier will aim to cut overlaps between Alitalia and Air One.

A new web-oriented brand is also due to replaceAir One. With bases in Catania, Palermo, Venice and Pisa, the carrier will be targeted at regaining market share in North East Italy and serving high demand in Sicily.

During the course of its four-year plan, Alitalia is planning to hit a positive EBIT in the second half of 2013, to achieve a break-even operating margin by 2014, to balance its budget by 2015 and to enter profit by 2016.

Flydubais Business Class product enters service

Low-cost airline flydubai haslaunched itsnewBusiness Class cabin, which includes 12wider, more comfortable seats, anin-flight entertainment (IFE) system offering 1,300 hours ofcontent, apriority check-in service andfast track immigration. Business Class passengers canalso make useoffast track security lanes andaccess Business Class lounges atselected airports.

Passengers on a flight from Dubai to Kyiv Boryspil International Airport were the first to experience the new front-end product. The airline will receive three new aircraft fitted with Business Class by the end of 2013, along with nine retrofitted aircraft.

Ghaith Al Ghaith, flydubais Chief Executive Officer, said: We have conducted extensive focus groups with our frequent flyers and their feedback has been instrumental in making the Business Class experience the best that it can be. Passengers who got to be the first to sample the new service were very pleased with the spacious new cabin configuration, the variety of the menu and the high quality in-flight entertainment. We look forward to adding this product across more routes on our network as we receive more aircraft fitted with business class seats.

He added: When we began to develop Business Class, we focused on every detail of the passengers journey, making it convenient, comfortable and enjoyable, while keeping in mind our goal of connecting underserved markets. We believe that the numerous offerings of Business Class create a complete package for our customers, which we hope they can enjoy time and time again.

RusLine toexpand domestic operation

Russian operator RusLine isbroadening itsgeographic reach from several hubs across thecountry, buoyed bystrong demand foritsdomestic inter-regional services.

The carrier is poised to open regular flights from Ulan Ude in East Siberia to Vladivostok, Yuzho-Sakhalinsk and Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky. This would follow the recent introduction of Ulan Ude-Khabarovsk rotations.

Over the past year, RusLine has almost doubled the number of its Bombardier CRJ200 aircraft to 17 from nine. It is expecting three more CRJ200 deliveries shortly.

Rapid fleet expansion has allowed RusLine to establish direct air links to provincial cities from Krasnodar, Volgograd and Krasnoyarsk. In 2011, its passenger traffic rose 63% on the back of a 74% increase in the number of flights.

Commercial director Vera Anpilogova said: "We now have capability to provide up to 150 frequencies a week during the high season and run five inter-regional flight programmes, each centred on a particular hub."

She also pointed to Ekaterinburg Koltsovo Airport, which had subleased four Embraer EMB-120 turboprops to the airline to serve nearby destinations and feed passenger traffic.

"We're aiming to restore provincial point-to-point air services that were commonplace 20 to 30 years ago but have been abandoned in favour of routes between more populated areas," said Anpilogova.

"Today there are 75 such points in our flight schedule. This gives us an ample scope for growth in line with this strategy."