By Vanni Gibertini
ITA Airways Becomes The Latest SkyTeam Alliance Member
On Oct. 15, ITA Airways became the new flag carrier for Italy replacing bankrupt Alitalia, putting an end to years of uncertainty over the destiny of the company that once dominated Italian skies.
ITA Airways started with a fleet of 52 aircraft, just about half the size of former Alitalia, and a smaller range of 45 destinations, just a handful of which are long-haul. In order to compete effectively in a very competitive marketplace, ITA Airways has managed to sign an agreement with the SkyTeam Alliance, taking the place left vacant by Alitalia.
ITA Airways has signed a 12-month agreement with SkyTeam and at the end of this term, it will decide whether to remain long-term in the Air France-KLM and Delta-led alliance or find other solutions, like joining rival Star Alliance with Lufthansa or United Airlines or pursuing other opportunities.
“For more than 20 years, the Italian market has been a cornerstone of SkyTeam’s European network and no other airline alliance connects Italy better to the world. We warmly welcome ITA Airways’ decision to join our alliance and ensure continuity of service for the millions of customers who choose SkyTeam as their preferred alliance to Italy,” said Walter Cho, SkyTeam Chairman in a press release. “SkyTeam and our members look forward to working with ITA Airways to establish long-term partnership opportunities going forward.”
Alfredo Altavilla, Executive Chairman of ITA Airways said, “Joining SkyTeam is a natural step, enabling us to continue to deliver a global network and seamless experience that customers flying to and from Italy expect. We look forward to close cooperation with our SkyTeam partners to support the start-up of our company, the Italian flag carrier.”
It will also be very important for ITA to become part of one of the immunized transatlantic joint ventures in order to further its competitive position in its most important markets. The Italian carrier is planning to operate flights to five destinations in the United States by March 2022, but given its relatively small size compared to all the other competitors, participation in one of the immunized joint ventures will be vital to its success.
SkyTeam carriers Air France-KLM, Delta Air Lines and Virgin Atlantic are all part of a joint venture allowing them to coordinate schedules and fares as well as sharing revenues on tickets sold on transatlantic routes. Alitalia was initially left out of the venture due to its financial troubles when approval was granted by antitrust authorities on both sides of the Atlantic, but now that ITA Airways has replaced Alitalia and is starting with a clean slate other members may be more inclined to include the start-up in the group.
In fact, sources internal to the company suggest that the main reason why ITA Airways has decided not to use the Alitalia brand it has purchased during the bankruptcy procedures is the very poor appeal it has among possible alliance partners. ITA spent 90 million euros ($104.6 million) to purchase the Alitalia brand, which also includes the ability to use the ‘AZ’ IATA code for flight numbers and the ‘055’ accounting code for ticketing, to make sure it is not used by other companies, but it has decided to create the new brand from the start in order to distance itself from the bad reputation Alitalia has created for itself throughout the years.