Italy's Alitalia, long among the weakest of the European "flag" airlines (it's been within days of shutdown repeatedly) has announced a "reboot" that will mix some cost-cutting with some major change and expansion fueled by funds from Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, which now owns 49% of Alitalia.
Aside from new paint, there will be major upgrades in lounges and terminals, food service and a "sexier image," there will be significant route changes. Etihad's strategy here, as with other airlines in which it holds a big stake, is to drive business through its Abu Dhabi hub, using its connections to other airlines as spokes.
For instance, Alitalia is adding more flights to Chicago, New York and Rio and new routes to Beijing, Mexico City, San Francisco, Seoul and Santiago, Chile; Milan will gain flights to Shanghai and Tokyo.
Five Italian cities will gain new flights to Abu Dhabi. Connections and codeshares will connect Alitalia to some of Etihad's other part-owned airlines including Air Berlin and Air Serbia. In addition, planes will be shuffled among the airlines, and Alitalia will get some of the many new planes Etihad has on order.
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