ROUTES EUROPE: Alitalia Ups Frequency to Abu Dhabi

Italian national carrier Alitalia has confirmed it will introduce a fifth weekly rotation on its route between Rome Leonardo da Vinci (Fiumicino) and Abu Dhabi International from June 13, 2013 as first revealed by our sister blog, Airline Route, last month.  The launch of the new Friday flight follows just six months after the route was launched in December 2012 and is due to better than anticipated traffic flows between the two cities.

Although the route is flown using an Alitalia Airbus A330-300 with seating for 230 passengers, it is jointly supported under a codeshare arrangement with Etihad Airways and operates to a split schedule to maximise connectivity at each airline’s hub.  Two of the weekly flights from Europe operate daylight schedules and three fly overnight, while two return departures from the Gulf fly in the small hours of the morning with the remaining three rotations departing during daylight hours.

The updated schedule is timed to coincide with seamless connections in Abu Dhabi and Rome to and from cities in Africa, Asia, Australia, Europe and the Indian subcontinent and the carriers confirm that after just five full months of operation the link has shown “healthy load factors, strong feeder and onward connections traffic,” burgeoning trade and tourism ties between the two markets.

“We are very pleased with the strengthening of the commercial partnership with Etihad Airways and with the traffic results of Alitalia’s flight between Rome and Abu Dhabi.  In over four months from the beginning of the connection, Alitalia has transported more than 17,000 passengers on the route,” said Giancarlo Schisano, Deputy General Director Business, Alitalia.

“We are very pleased with the strengthening of the commercial partnership with Etihad Airways and with the traffic results of Alitalia’s flight between Rome and Abu Dhabi.  In over four months from the beginning of the connection, Alitalia has transported more than 17,000 passengers on the route.”

Giancarlo Schisano
Deputy General Director Business, Alitalia

According to the Italian executive the O&D demand has been well supported by the transfer traffic with strong traffic flows to destinations across Australia, South East Asia, the Indian subcontinent, the Gulf States and South Africa on Etihad’s network.  Ahead of the expansion enhanced codeshare connectivity options have been opened via Abu Dhabi to Bahrain, Bangkok, Colombo, Jakarta, Johannesburg, Khartoum, Kuala Lumpur, the Maldives, Melbourne, Muscat, Nairobi, the Seychelles, Singapore and Sydney.

At the same time, Etihad has extended its onward codeshare connections from Alitalia’s Rome Fiumicino hub to now comprise Athens, Barcelona, Belgrade, Bucharest, Budapest, Frankfurt, Geneva, Madrid, Malaga, Malta, Milan, Munich, Sofia, Tirana, Venice, Vienna and Zurich.

“These are yet more positive milestones in our expanding partnership with Alitalia.  The increase in direct services between Abu Dhabi and Rome, an expanded list of onward codeshare cities, combined with a familiar lie-flat seat in business class, underscore how we are delivering value for both airlines, and most importantly, our combined customers,” said Kevin Knight, Chief Strategy and Planning Officer, Etihad Airways.

This Rome – Abu Dhabi route represents Alitalia’s first long-term scheduled programme at the United Arab Emirates (UAE) capital and will complement the existing flights of Etihad to Milan Malpensa.  The SkyTeam alliance member has previously served the Emirati city for a limited period with flights between December 1996 and March 1997 and up until November 2008 had also served Dubai in the United Arab Emirates (UAE).

Etihad Airways made its debut in the Italian market in September 2007 and boosted frequencies on its Abu Dhabi – Milan route to a daily service from June 2011.  In 2012, an estimated 441,000 bi-directional O&D passengers travelled between Italy and UAE, up 11.2 per cent on the previous year, with around 14.8 per cent of passengers flying to Abu Dhabi and around 85.0 per cent via Dubai. 

In Alitalia’s first three months of operating the Rome – Abu Dhabi route (December 2012 – February 2013, bi-directional O&D demand between the two cities more than doubled compared to the same period in 2011/2012 with estimated traffic up 121.2 per cent to approximately 6,500 passengers.