Alitalia, Italy’s flag carrier, is poised to become European aviation’s “sexiest brand” -- at least according to Etihad Airways CEO James Hogan. Of course, Hogan has a vested interest in the matter: his Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways bought last year a 49 percent stake in Alitalia, which was facing bankruptcy in 2014.
Etihad and Alitalia announced a strategic plan on Tuesday to help the struggling airline get back to profitability by 2017. The plan includes necessary cost cutbacks and debt elimination -- but the “sexy” moniker will be achieved through new branding that will “symbolize the best of Italy ... food, wine, culture, fashion, style, architecture, design and technology.”
Alitalia CEO Silvano Cassano said the airline’s makeover will include a new livery, upgraded food and lounges, and even new uniforms for its crew. A major factor in Alitalia’s growth plan includes expanding the airline’s network and working with global partners in the Etihad network, such as Air Berlin, to increase flights throughout the globe. Rome, for example, will get new connections to cities such as San Francisco and Santiago, Chile, while adding new routes to Asian destinations in China and Korea. Five Italian cities will all direct flights to Abu Dhabi.
Alitalia will work with Etihad, which has more than 200 planes on order from Boeing and Airbus, to upgrade its fleet over the next few years. Long-haul jets will be a priority, Cassano said.
“We wouldn’t have invested in Alitalia if we hadn’t thought the industrial plan would be successful,” Hogan, who is now also a vice president at the Italian carrier, said. “I’ve been told not to say it but I do believe Alitalia can be the sexiest brand in Europe in aviation.”