Alitalia weighing up possible flights to Zagreb, Pristina, Skopje and Sarajevo
The struggling Italian national carrier Alitalia will be expanding its European network this winter season with most EX-YU capital cities being considered as part of the expansion push. In a new industrial plan, to be implemented between 2013 and 2016, Alitalia is developing a host of changes to its route network in order to seize new international opportunities and streamline connections. The airline is considering launching flights from Rome to Zagreb, Pristina, Skopje and Sarajevo. However, other cities in Europe and the Middle East are also in the running. These include Nuremberg, Lviv, Bordeaux, Ankara, Marrakech, Misurata, Minsk, Basel, Marseille, Rostov, Damascus and Erbil in Iraq.
Alitalia has a limited presence in the region. It operates flights to Belgrade and recently launched its new service from Rome to Podgorica. The airline once flew to Sarajevo, Zagreb and Skopje and operated seasonal summer flights to Dubrovnik and Split. This winter, Alitalia will boost its daily service from Rome to the Serbian capital to ten times per week. Furthermore, the airline will maintain its three weekly flights to Podgorica over the winter months as well.
Currently, Sarajevo has no direct flights to Rome. Bosnia sees a notable number of travellers from Italy, mostly religious tourists making the Medjugorje pilgrimage. Prior to Alitalia’s bankruptcy in 2008, the airline operated flights from Milan to Sarajevo. On the other hand, Pristina is well connected with Italy thanks to Belle Air Europe. However, there is no direct service between Rome and Pristina. Skopje too was once served by the Italian carrier. Nowadays, the Albanian low cost airline Belle Air maintains flights between the Macedonian and Italian capitals. From Zagreb, Croatia Airlines has a firm monopoly on the Rome service.
Alitalia is once again in financial trouble. The carrier was forced to cancel many flights earlier in the year in an attempt to keep costs down. Recently, the working week at Alitalia has been cut from five to four days. The new business plan, drafted by the carrier’s recently appointed CEO Gabriele Del Torchio, aims to increase profitability, control costs and reduce debt. A decision will soon be made on how many EX-YU cities will make the cut in Alitalia’s winter schedule.