Alitalia

Review: Alitalia Lounge New York JFK

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After flying Singapore Suites from Frankfurt to New York (a flight I’ve reviewed before, though won’t be reviewing this time around), I flew Philippine Airlines from New York to Vancouver. I arrived in New York from Frankfurt shortly before noon, went into the city, and then had an 11:55PM flight to Vancouver.

I’ve been fascinated by Philippine Airlines’ new flight between New York and Vancouver ever since they launched it in 2015, especially as they’re competing head-to-head with Cathay Pacific on the route. So I couldn’t turn down the opportunity to try it, especially as the one-way business class fare was just $440.

I got to the airport at around 9PM, plenty early for my flight. Outside the terminal I saw the Philippine Airlines sign, which I of course had to take a picture of.

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Alitalia Will Shrink Fleet, Cut Free Food & Drinks, And More

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In late February I wrote about how Alitalia is on the verge of running out of cash. Without a new investment or business plan, they were expected to run out of cash by the end of March. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that they’ve been on life support for quite a while, but always had investors come through last minute.

Last week I wrote about Alitalia’s ridiculous new business plan, which their board was expected to approve by the end of the week. Well, sure enough the board approved the plan, which Alitalia has now published. I think the bullet points should tell you everything you need to know about the odds of success with this plan:

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Alitalia Has A (Ridiculous) New Business Plan… Will It Keep Them Alive?

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Well this should get interesting. In late February I wrote about how Alitalia is on the verge of running out of cash. Without a new investment or business plan, they were expected to run out of cash by the end of March. This shouldn’t come as much of a surprise, given that they’ve been on life support for quite a while, but always had investors come through last minute.

It has been a few years since Etihad bought a 49% stake in Alitalia, hoping to turn them around. The plan was that Alitalia would break even by 2017, but instead they’re expected to lose more than €600 million this year.

With that in mind, something’s gotta give. Etihad already has the biggest stake in Alitalia that they’re legally allowed to. The Italian government won’t bail them out. And any bank that’s willing to pour more money into Alitalia is just plain dumb.

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Alitalia Is Expected To Run Out Of Cash Within A Month

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Well, unfortunately it looks like Etihad’s investment in Alitalia isn’t working out quite as either party had hoped. A few years back Etihad bought a 49% stake in Alitalia, and there’s no doubt they improved their onboard product, in terms of business class seats, wifi, crew uniforms, dining, etc.

All of that is nice, but it doesn’t make an airline profitable. Since Etihad purchased a stake in Alitalia, the goal has been for Alitalia to break even by 2017. Instead Alitalia is expecting to make more than €600 million in operating losses this year. That’s average losss of €68,500 per hour. Ouch.

These losses aren’t sustainable, and in this case it looks like cash will be running out sooner rather than later. ItalyEurope24 is reporting that Alitalia is expected to run out of cash by the end of March, and will no longer be able to afford fuel or lease payments for their planes, pay their 12,000 employees, cover airport fees, etc.

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Amex Offering Big Alitalia Transfer Bonus… But Is It Worth It?

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The US American Express Membership Rewards program is offering a 40% bonus on points transfers to Alitalia’s frequent flyer program through December 31, 2016.

The transfer ratio is usually 1,000:1,000, so through this promotion you’ll instead get 1,400 Alitalia miles for every 1,000 Amex points. Since the bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, the bonus should post instantly, and you can take advantage of the offer as often as you’d like. On the surface this is even better than the 25% bonus that Alitalia offered on points transfers in October.

However, Alitalia also made some major no-notice changes to their program in mid-October. The good news is that the best use of Alitalia miles is for redemptions on their own flights (either for outright award tickets or for upgrades), and the value of that didn’t change with the recent devaluation.

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Rumors Of Fleet, Job, And Service Cuts Coming To Alitalia

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Etihad Airways’ expansion strategy has largely been based around having equity stakes in foreign airlines, rather than growing their own fleet too much. Etihad has invested in airberlin, Air Serbia, Alitalia, Jet Airways, etc.

While I understand the Jet Airways investment since it gives Etihad more access to the India market, their other investments are a bit more puzzling.

With Etihad in cost cutting mode due to decreasing oil revenue for the UAE, it seems that they’re less willing to throw money at their other airlines as well. For example, Etihad is slowly cutting off airberlin, as they realize there’s no end in sight to the airlines’ losses.

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Non Preoccuparti! The Best Use Of Alitalia Miles Hasn’t Changed

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Over the weekend Alitalia devalued their program overnight, and implemented new pricing for SkyTeam partner awards with seemingly no notice.

I wrote about MilleMiglia in November of 2014, and noted that Alitalia had a separate award chart for SkyTeam partners at that time:

“In nearly all cases, these are lower than what Delta or Air France would charge. However, the award charts are set to be updated next year (or last Saturday, according to their Greek language website), so I wouldn’t count on these prices sticking around.”

So while it’s annoying that the partner award chart was updated overnight, it’s not like we didn’t have any notice. We just didn’t have specifics, nor a timeline, but this has been theoretically happening “domani” for years.

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Etihad Guest Aligns Elite Benefits & Cuts Lounge Access For Silver Members

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While Emirates has been focused on growing their own airline, Etihad has taken a different growth strategy. They’re keeping Etihad (relatively) small, and instead investing in foreign carriers. The collection of these eight carriers is known as Etihad Airways Partners, and they serve over 400 cities across six continents.

Etihad has been working on aligning the experiences across airlines as much as possible, including both the onboard product and the frequent flyer programs.

Etihad has just announced that they’re working on standardizing the experience across airlines as much as possible, including with their frequent flyer program. Etihad will begin offering standardizing fare choices across airlines, and already offers flat beds and dine on demand in longhaul business class across all their partners.

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Transfer Amex Points To Alitalia With A 25% Bonus

Alitalia

The US American Express Membership Rewards program is offering a 25% bonus on points transfers to Alitalia’s frequent flyer program through October 31, 2016.

The transfer ratio is usually 1,000:1,000, so through this promotion you’ll instead get 1,250 Alitalia miles for every 1,000 Amex points. Since the bonus is hard coded into the transfer ratio, the bonus should post instantly, and you can take advantage of the offer as often as you’d like.

Overall I’m a big fan of Alitalia’s business class product, and that’s despite the fact that I haven’t flown them since they’ve undergone a refresh.

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Alitalia’s New Look Is Chic, Stylish, And So Italian

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Italian airline Alitalia launched a new global brand campaign yesterday, with the aim of highlighting the Italian-ness of the airline, while positioning itself as a luxury carrier. This is a continuation of the partnership with Etihad, which has led to significant investment in various aspects of the airline, and a general re-branding.

In fact, the entire campaign has a very Etihad-vibe in terms of the production quality, the details, etc., but the theme is still quintessentially Italian.

Per the press release:

Cramer Ball, Alitalia’s Chief Executive Officer, said: “Italy is the embodiment of beauty, warmth, passion, hospitality and a way of life celebrated the world over. It is an undisputed leader of style and innovative design. The Alitalia of today, as a national symbol, is imbued with the finest qualities for which this country is famous. It is with this spirit that we introduce our new global brand campaign, starting with a television commercial which presents the best of Italy and the importance that the country enjoys on the world stage.”

And it certainly does — this video makes me homesick for Italy in the worst way:

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Which Delta Partner Has The Best Business Class To Europe?

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As we learned last week, leveraging Delta’s partners is the best way to not get screwed when redeeming SkyMiles, so when reader Nolan asked the following on the Ask Lucky forum recently I was excited to answer:

“Have a ton of SkyMiles to burn, wondering which one is best. I will be flying from GRR to DTW or ATL and then to whichever airline is best. Is Virgin Atlantic good? I’ve read a lot of good things, as well as bad things. My main concern with Virgin Atlantic is the seat. Is it annoying? Is it narrow? Are Air France, KLM, or Alitalia better in biz?”

The improvement in partner products is a huge boon to the SkyMiles program. All of the programs listed have at least decent business class products, with some really solid options depending on the aircraft and configuration. So let’s go through the four main transatlantic options when redeeming Delta miles.

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Alitalia Announces New Business Class, New Routes, And More

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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.

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.

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Alitalia Adds Complimentary Business Class Chauffeur Service For Milan Expo

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While it doesn’t really sway my travel decisions, I do love when an airline offers premium passengers complimentary chauffeur service. There’s something nice about the seamless experience of being able to request a chauffeur through your booking and having them whisk you away on both ends of your trip.

Expo 2015 is being hosted in Milan this year, and it looks like Alitalia will be offering longhaul business class passengers complimentary chauffeur service for flights arriving/departing Milan’s Malpensa Airport.

Here are the terms Alitalia has published for their complimentary chauffeur service:

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Alitalia To Discontinue Partnership With Air France/KLM… Ciao SkyTeam?

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Earlier in the month I wrote about Alitalia’s restructuring plan, whereby they’re trying to become a five star airline in the coming years.

Last year Etihad bought a 49% stake in Alitalia, making Alitalia one of the more than handful of airlines that Etihad has invested in. The strategy is sort of brilliant, when framed in the context of the battle the big Middle Eastern carriers are facing in light of Open Skies. The more airlines Etihad can take control of, the more “soft” political power they have, especially in Europe.

Alitalia’s restructuring plan is interesting, in that they’re really trying to turn into a premium airline, by focusing on the business class experience. They’ll be introducing new seats, new service concepts, and will be installing wifi throughout their fleet. They finally “get” that while it’s important to fill economy seats as well, airlines ultimately make money with premium passengers.

Alitalia already belongs to SkyTeam, though as we know nowadays, alliances don’t really limit outside partnerships. Emirates has a huge joint venture with Qantas, and Etihad has a huge joint venture with airberlin, yet both Qantas and airberlin belong to oneworld.

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