Alitalia Announces New Business Class, New Routes, And More

In their quest for world domination, Etihad has purchased a 49% stake in Alitalia.

On the surface, Etihad’s strategy of buying struggling airlines is a bit tough to comprehend. The main reason they’re doing this — particularly in Europe — is to extend their soft political power, and hope to get less pushback when they launch more fifth freedom routes.

Etihad-Partners

But beyond that they actually sometimes have a decent business plan when they take over airlines, which is sort of surprising, since at times they seem to struggle running their own airline.

Anyway, yesterday Alitalia unveiled their vision going forward, which was extremely interesting. James Hogan, Etihad’s CEO, was in attendance in Rome, and shared his thoughts as well.

If you have an hour to spare, here’s the video of the conference:

So how do they plan on transforming?

First of all, they’re planning strong but calculated route growth, while also making sure they have a more competitive product across the board.

So what new routes can we expect from Alitalia?

Alitalia planes to launch flights from Rome to:

  • Beijing, Seoul, and Shanghai in 2015
  • Mexico City and Santiago in 2016
  • San Francisco in 2018

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Not surprisingly, they’re looking to increase their widebody fleet while reducing their narrowbody fleet. Given the low cost carrier competition in Europe, they realize they’re not going to be able to be competitive there, so they’ll basically be using their narrowbody fleet only as much as necessary to support their longhaul operations.

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And since this is an Italian airline, of course “evolving the brand” is all about style, style, and more style.

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Alitalia’s first A330 with the new livery is actually flying as of today. The entire widebody fleet should feature the new livery as of mid-2016, while the entire narrowbody fleet should feature it by mid-2017.

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As I first wrote about in early May, Alitalia plans on introducing a new business class product. That puzzled me a bit at first, given that Alitalia already has a competitive staggered business class product.

Alitalia-Business-Class

It looks like the new business class seat will keep the same “bones,” but will just be more stylish. Which is a smart move, since it was a good product to begin with, though wasn’t stylish in the least.

But beyond that, Alitalia is really investing in the passenger experience, as they should, particularly in business class. They’ll be adding wifi, dine on demand, new flagship lounges, chauffeur service on select flights, turndown service, and more.

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Alitalia will also be introducing a new premium economy product, which looks like a nice improvement.

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It’s also impressive how quickly they plan to roll out all of these new product offerings. The soft product improvements should mostly be in place by July 1.

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Bottom line

Man, you really have to give Etihad credit for coming in, identifying problems quickly, and cleaning up house. I’ll be very curious to see Alitalia’s transformation. Their plan looks good on paper, so let’s see if they’re actually able to execute on what they’re hoping for here.

Alitalia-A330

What do you make of Alitalia’s transformation plan?

(Tip of the hat to Mac)

Comments

  1. What do supposed the chances are that they’ll have turn down service in place a couple days before July 1? I’ll by flying them in J LAX-FCO, so I’m looking forward to experiencing the new products.

  2. wow their premium economy product looks better than most domestic first class products we have.

  3. In other news, Delta has announced that SkyMiles redemption for Business Class on Alitalia will no longer be allowed and Delta SkyMiles accrual on Alitalia will be lowered from 100% miles flown, to -25%.

  4. Interesting, isn’t Poltrona Frau leather the same that Etihad uses? I guess the new stake is starting to show!

  5. And by Etihad dine on demand, they mean running out of food after the first 90 minutes in the air?

  6. Can anyone elaborate on Etihad’s 2013 fleet order? Did they order too many aircraft and now want to give some of them to their partner airlines?

  7. @ Kate — On Etihad? Haven’t experienced that lately. Assume it’s probably not a major issue on most routes. I think I’ve just had bad luck.

  8. I really hope they come through on their new flagship lounge announcement. I flew them in business class last year and enjoyed the flight but hated the transit in Rome. The current lounges aren’t worth spending much time in.

  9. I think it might be helpful to note that the PE product shown in picture is the same they currently have on the 772, just with a different color palette; also it is the same PE product AF currently has. Alitalia on the A330 has a slightly different seat…

  10. Alitalia is an iconic brand and an airline for which I have a soft spot, as it was my first experience traveling in a long-haul premium cabin back in 1997 (JFK-FCO//MXP-JFK), not long after the Magnifica Class branding began. I am excited for them and will be looking for opportunities to give them a try.

  11. Alitalia staff attitude is what really needs to change, or all these efforts will be in vain, once the novelty wears off. Everyone of their staff who made a written promise how he or she plans to improve the airline, should be held to their promise. Best of Luck, they really got a second chance, for the umpteenth time. Swissair, Sabena, Pan Am, TWA, didn’t get another chance.

  12. I flew Alitalia PE from JFK-MXP-JFK earlier this year, and it is a very tired old product. They have no selection of wines (and this is an ITALIAN airline!). While hard product is standard PE, their soft product, including staff, left a lot to be desired.

    Next time it’s EK in A380 coach to MXP – 10 times better than Alitalia PE!!

    (No, I can’t afford all these business class tickets …)

  13. The biggest problem is the awful Rome Airport experience. Let them fix the lounges and bag handling first before changing the color of the seat cushion.

  14. Those new business class seat colors are ugly. Just plain ugly. Especially in contrast to the seat shell. The previous light grey color was just fine and could have been jazzed up nicely with a good quality pillow and blanket in a pretty, coordinating color.

    Did I mention these new seats are ugly?

  15. “The main reason they’re doing this — particularly in Europe — is to extend their soft political power, and hope to get less pushback when they launch more fifth freedom routes.”

    Close, but not quite right. Etihad won’t be launching any fifth-freedom routes.

    Hogan knows the US/EU carriers are terrified of having to compete with the ME3 across the Atlantic and eventually will be able to convince their governments to block new fifth-freedom traffic. That’s the real motivation behind the current US/ME airline dust-up, not the trivial US-India traffic that’s being siphoned off. Rather than fight for fifth-freedom rights for Etihad itself, he’s completely circumventing the issue by building a virtual alliance with second-tier EU carriers who will actually fly to North America.

    JFK-MXP-DXB operated by Emirates is a fifth-freedom route. JFK-MXP-AUH operated by Alitalia connecting to Etihad is a fourth-freedom route (technically two fourth-freedom flights in this direction and two third-freedom flights in the other).

  16. I found an older (2014) article on this program on your blog – anything newer? I was able to get an account with them, but when I search, every day shows no availability. Must you still have some miles in your account? The search engine works, just nothing available. Maybe you wouldn’t mind updating a post on using miles to fly them. Thanks

  17. @ pointie — Sorry, which program are you talking about? You’re trying to redeem Alitalia miles, or?

  18. Rome-SFO in 2018? That must set some sort of record for an advance route announcement. Can’t remember a route announced 3 years before it (theoretically) starts.

  19. thedesignair.net has a pretty good coverage of the event, including close up look of the new(ish) livery and seat (business and economy). You should check it out!

  20. I’m surprised they targeted SFO and not LAX for the US West Coast flight. But it will be great for Pacific coast flyers like me to get to Rome/Italy instead of flying through another Euro city, which always tends to make the jetlag worse. Too bad it won’t start until 2018…

  21. Sure would be interesting to see if Etihad did something similar after choosing to buy low on….Malaysian…wouldn’t it?

  22. @Bill

    They already have LAX-FCO, albeit seasonally.

    I love it, wish it was year round. Flying home from FCO on Monday. Biz seats somewhat narrow but true lie flat.

  23. It is not a new coat of paint or a partner full of cash or new destinations that will save AZ… It is actually having staff (ground and in the air) that actually cares for the customer, so far, it’s been dismally disappointing. I fly often with them and they are at the level of low-cost in economy (well they do give crackers on medium-haul and non-alcoholic drinks, but that’s it!)
    And Fiumicino is such a poorly organised airport, terrible AZ lounges, and the AZ staff will do the absolute minimum. As an example, once I remarked to the boarding agent that non-priority passengers were going on the priority line for FT/business, suggested they make an announcement and enforce the line, all I got back from her is a shoulder shrug… And it’s always like that. Oh and boarding by bus in my experience, 90% of the time. Not fan of that.
    Apparently from the linked article (thedesignair) the staff is being sent to Abu Dhabi for training. I sure hope that makes a difference!

  24. Hi Ben – I just booked FCO-LAX (777-200) route for next June 2016. Should I expect the new product and service to be fully rolled out by then for this route?

  25. @ Matt C — I’d definitely expect the new service, though wouldn’t count on the new product necessarily. Not that there’s much difference between that and the old product.

  26. Dear lucky
    I had the good fortune to fly alitalia business class from abu dhabi to rome return in may and june of this year 2016.
    Brillant service, food and comfort. Better than ethiad business class product from asia. I have recommended to all my university colleagues.

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