Alitalia considering major EX-YU expansion

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.


  1. Anonymous09:16

    Interesting that they are considering Damascus. Though it might be a bit dangerous at this time the airport is not closed for operations. Currently, the only foreign airline operation into the country is Iraqi Airways.

    Maybe they are trying to do what Turkish Airlines did in Mogadishu. Start flying into a slightly dangerous airport but the first one to do so.

    1. frequentflyer14:40

      ^ In business, you go where the money is. If everyone else is away from Damascus and someone still needs to operate the flights, you have the monopoly. If later on, you are in competition, you just hope your product is good enough to keep attracting these same passengers. AZ have a trustworthy name after all the years flying around the Mediterranean.

  2. Anonymous10:30

    Alitalia flew to Zagreb until late 2008, they sacked Zagreb flights cause of recession in early 2009 and as Alitalia was facing major financial difficulties at the time.

    For them to return to Zagreb in 2014 would be a natural progression from what they did in the past, also with Croatia in the EU things for Alitalia should now be a lot easier.

    Also i see the return of few other airlines in 2014, Czech Air, LOT, KLM, SAS, Swiss air and perhaps arrival of Emirates and Brussels Airlines.

    JAL and Korean Air maintain 7-8 seasonal flights each year since 2008, I am hoping they can establish a full service with twice weekly service from Seoul and Tokyo respectively by 2015, and wold be nice if Malayan Air returns as well, they maintained twice weekly service via Via Vienna until late 2008, also I'd love to see China Air starting direct flights to Zagreb, last year 22000 Chinese tourists vised Zagreb, this year 40 000 are expected, China is a growing tourist market Zagreb and Croatia should try to tap in to that market asp.

    Delta even if only summer seasonly flights would also be welcomed, with direct links to New York, that would indeed give many Croats easier access to US and Canada, and hopefully air Canada would also return to Zagreb sometimes in near future, they had twice weekly flights to Zagreb until late 1991.

    If all these airlines return or start their service to Zagreb, in 2014 and 2015, I expect Zagreb could experience massive growth in passenger numbers, although I predict 5.0 million passengers by 2020, I'd like this number to be closer to 5.75 million.

    1. Anonymous10:57

      It's ZAG you're talking about, mate, this kind of expansion is completely unrealistic. ZAG can consider itself lucky if it sees a third of the airlines you've mentioned.

    2. Anonymous10:59

      Stop dreaming. Greece has barely any of these flights.

    3. Purger11:35

      That is nothing else but dream. For now KLM is most likely to come, China, Japan, Korea, Emirates and USA no way in near future (up to 5 years).

      By the way Pan Am (not Delta, doesn't matter that Delta took most of Pan Am rotes) flow to ZAG 4 times per week, not 2 times, and in same time Air Canada flow 3 times per week to ZAG.

    4. Purger11:37

      rotes = routes

    5. frequentflyer14:48

      KLM yes (OU stuck with fleet shortage, there is extra demand for this route), CSA will be back once their house is in order. Rest on list of European list are all in *A, and are directly fed by OU or LH/OS.

      EK is the elephant in the room on the list - all their planes are too big right now to start the route given the usual starting frequency is daily. FlyDubai can't operate the route (too long).

      As for TATL flights, there's no money to be made flying to US any more. Cleverly, people are now looking towards the sandpit and Asia...

  3. Alitalia flew MXP-SKP daily ( i loved their Embraer 145 :P )

    would be good to see a SkyTeam member back again at SKP

  4. Anonymous11:06

    Welcome back SkyTeam. You've been missed. A good alternative to the Star Alliance dominated market. Hope Air France and KLM would join soon.

  5. Anonymous11:37

    OT about Belgrade:

    "Anonymous July 3, 2013 at 6:04 PM

    What happened with flights of Pegasus to Belgrade?
    Pegasus decreased from six times a week to actually four times... (any source?) and that in the beginning of the busy summer.
    Seems to me if they have problem to fill their planes.
    And also always downgrading to their scrappy 737-400.
    Is there even the possibility they will fail and leave completely?"

    To all those concerned: the 737-400 is nowhere a DOWNGRADE compared to the 737-800. The 737-800 is the NG variant of the same plane! Actually there is like a 10 seats difference on the models Pegasus operates so stop screaming about "downgrade" each time you see the -400 which is routinely rotated between different destinations.

  6. Alitelia would be great addition to SJJ. Every time I flew there the plane was full of pilgrims to Medjugorje. Considering that fact, it might even work for them. They should also see some transfer passengers from North America if the flights are decently coordinated. This would be a great news because now the only option is Austrian/Lufthansa or Turkish (longer flight).

    1. Anonymous14:18

      Alitalia should fly to Mostar, not Sarajevo if they want to target the Italian and other pilgrims to Medjugorje. The number of pilgrims is increasing all the time.

    2. All pilgrims to Medjugorje also visit Sarajevo.

      To open a route, you need passengers who fly all year long.
      Flights to Mostar are mostly seasonal and for seasonal flights, the airlines use charter flights.

      Sarajevo has much bigger potential then Mostar considering Rome.

      In Sarajevo is Italian embassy, many italian companies produce furniture in Sarajevo, and their is a considerable diaspora i North Italy.
      In the future, they will just book a flight from Bologna, Florence or Milan via Rome to Sarajevo.

    3. Anonymous02:26

      I agree with the point about Sarajevo but disagree with the point about Mostar: if Tuzla has managed to obtain highly successful routes by wizz then there is no reason why Mostar cannot have the same, with Alitalia or another company.

  7. frequentflyer14:33

    Admin, one error in your list: AZ flew ZAG twice daily until the savage cuts they made to their Euro network to survive back in 2009. I remember last flying them on the route back in 2006 as it was cheaper flying via MXP than direct OU flights to LHR & AMS, fleet problems with AT7s meant the service was substituted with a painfully slow Dornier328, and noisy MD80s the other flights...

    And we must remember that AZ/AP (AirOne) was suppposed to restart flights ex Milan in September 2011, but they never eventuated (another financial crisis at AZ)... Half the problem with the current AZ/AP tieup is that they haven't worked out what to do with AP despite it being in an ideal all-Y config for the Italian market. The only money to be made is in the north if you operate C class!!

    I see this list simply as SkyTeam trying to fill the holes in their European network now we have seen the worst of the recession. CSA I also expect to return to ZAG sometime soon. This is just another example of why JA (B&H Airlines) needs proper fleet and route planning, an AT7 is perfect for operations to FCO in terms of size and route distance, but without a proper sense of what to use the fleet for it loses out on what would be a most profitable route for them.

    Perfect destinations: IST, ZAG, BEG, VIE, ZRH, FCO and SKP. All operated once daily to the same schedule - and watch the airline actually make some difference to the people of BiH!! Those planes are designed for short flights with quick turnaround, not the haphazard ops currently!

    O/T: recently used QR ZAG-DOH (&vv) for the first time. Very impressed with operations and service, healthy loads in both directions. Plane almost 100% full beyond BUD (Airbus 321). Flight time ~25mins on the short hop ZAG-BUD, just enough to quickly roll out trolley for hot sandwich and juice, then immediate descent! Not many pax exclusively ZAG-BUD, they would fill and make money if offering €99 return between two cities, beats driving or painfully slow train! Fleet efficiency in 32x series encourages these short hops, they can't upgauge flights if success continues - it will have to be delinked.

    1. Anonymous16:10

      Yeah, I was also impressed with service on such a short flight ZAG-BUD,just 25 min in air and they manage to serve hot rolled beef and juice. But that's Qatar Airways, they always make you feel impressed on their flights.

  8. Anonymous15:41

    About Alitalia opening those new routes:
    Finally it will be their low-cost daughter AirOne that operates these routes as it is already the case with Tirana.
    Alitalia self does not have the financial backbone to do it themselves!

    Also OU having the monopoly to Zagreb from Rome...
    i thought those flights were not direct but with a stopover in Split/Dubrovnik?

    1. Anonymous16:02

      All flights from Zagreb to Rome are via Split and Dubrovnik, 2 times per week via Dubrovnik, 5 times per week via Split. This is every winter same.

      In summer they used to have 3 direct flights from Zagreb to Rome and 7 via DBV/SPU, but this summer I think they just add more flights but all of them via DBV/SPU.

    2. Anonymous20:51

      Yes,there are actually NO direct flights between Zagreb and Rome...

    3. Anonymous05:15

      Actually they are direct. It is the same aircraft with the same flight number with a stopover. They are not NON-STOP flights, just direct. Yes there is a difference.

  9. Anonymous15:55

    Apropos Pegasus Airlines :
    Today they are 3x in BEG,
    all of them with 737-800 !

  10. Anonymous18:24

    Happy Friday everyone!

  11. Anonymous20:49

    These flights will never happen.
    Alitalia has to cut unprofitable routes before opening new ones.

  12. @Ex-Yu Aviation
    You need to make a small, yet important, distinction. Belle Air Europe flies to SKP, not Belle Air. Belle Air Europe is an Italian airline and, therefore, is able to fly between Italy and Macedonia. Belle Air is an Albanian low-cost(ish) airline. These two airlines are separate legal entities based in different countries, however as the name suggests there is a connection between the two.

    Finally, Air One used to fly out of PRN several years back. The route was later operated by Meridiana, but currently only Adria Airways and Belle Air Europe link Kosovo and Italy.

  13. Anonymous12:54

    SKP - MXP was served by Alitalia Express with ER4 until suspension of ex-YU routes(apart from BEG). Always full loads, back then no competition from Skopje to Milan, FCO used to be served by MAT Macedonian Airlines. Wizz flies to Bergamo, Alitalia will probably rely on transfer pax from SKP. Happy to learn about this expansion.

    1. Anonymous14:58

      "always full loads" thats bit exaggerating ; )

  14. Anonymous19:31

    Possibly. I've been on board several times, always full (considering ER4's small cabin), usually business travelers. Once altogether Macedonian PM, ex PM and ministers, all in one :)


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