Etihad Airways’ launch of daily Abu Dhabi–Rome flights is ‘the next step in a burgeoning relationship with Italy’, said the airline’s President and Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan, at a press conference in Rome today.
The new service adds to Etihad Airways’ daily flights to Milan and complements Alitalia’s five-times-weekly service between Rome and Abu Dhabi. The two airlines offer codeshare connections to another 31 destinations, giving increased choice to their customers.
“With our Rome and Milan services, and our existing codeshare relationship with Alitalia, Italy continues to grow as one of our most important strategic markets,” said Mr Hogan.
“We expect the relationship to develop further, with a process under way which we hope will conclude with Etihad Airways taking a minority shareholding in Alitalia.”
Mr Hogan said Etihad Airways’ minority equity investment strategy was delivering many benefits to markets around the world.
“Airlines are scale businesses,” he said. “They need scale in networks to be able to offer customers a competitive choice to as many destinations as possible. And they need scale in operation to deliver efficiencies and synergies which contribute to profits.
“Our minority investments in network partners, coupled with our wider codeshare strategy, are enabling Etihad Airways and its partners to achieve these economies of scale.
“Alone, neither Etihad Airways nor our network partners can hope to effectively compete against the might of the European legacy carriers and their alliances. Alone, neither of us would succeed in increasingly competitive markets.
“But together, we can win by sharing efficiencies and applying best practice, and we can deliver a highly efficient business performance to create and deliver sustainable profitability.
“In each case, we work within the regulatory framework. We have no control, nor do we desire it. Our investment is about commitment, about the ‘skin in the game’ which encourages all of us to seek the best possible business performance and customer service.”
The new Abu Dhabi-Rome route will be operated by a two-cabin Airbus A330-200 aircraft, seating 262 guests, with 22 Business Class flatbed seats, and 240 Economy Class seats.
Business Class provides a specially trained Food and Beverage Manager, while families across both cabins enjoy the assistance of the airline’s Flying Nanny.
Earlier this month Alitalia and Etihad Airways were named as Official Global Airline Carriers for Expo 2015, the upcoming Universal Exposition which will be held in Milan from 1 May to 31 October 2015.