ROME ― Italian carrier Alitalia will resume services to Korea after 18 years with its Incheon-Rome direct route to launch on June 4.
Alitalia, a member of the SkyTeam airline alliance, will operate the new route three times a week with 250-seat A330 aircraft and offer three travel classes ― Magnifica (business class), Classica Plus (premium economy class) and Classica (economy class).
“Under the vision to build the ‘new Alitalia,’ we have put a priority on the expansion of the Asian network (for future growth),” Alitalia CEO Silvano Cassano said in a meeting with the Korean press at the firm’s headquarters in Rome last week.
“Among new flights to Asian cities, we consider Seoul the most important (in terms of growth potential).”
Alitalia CEO Silvano Cassano. (Bloomberg)
The executive previously worked in Seoul as head of Benetton Korea in the early 2000s and said he has an understanding of Korean dynamism.
To bolster sales and marketing efforts in Korea, the company has worked on developing competitive ticket prices and a variety of travel package programs with its new Korean general sales agency Daemyung.
“We are working hard to advance inflight services as well in an effort to make Rome the destination of Korean travelers in Europe, replacing existing popular cities like Paris,” said Ariodante Valeri, chief commercial officer at Alitalia.
This will be critical for a three-star airline to attract Korean travelers who are used to world-class inflight services. He added the company is developing sales and marketing programs for Korean travelers to Expo Milano 2015, which will be held between May 1 and Oct. 31 in the northern Italian city of Milan.
Alitalia has also invested in the Chinese market for its Asian expansion. A month ahead of the Incheon-Rome route, Alitalia began offering direct flights to Shanghai on May 1. By the end of the year, the carrier will resume services for its Beijing-Rome route.
Alitalia’s investment from Etihad Airways last year also makes it possible to expand its reach to Asia. The Abu Dhabi flag carrier, which holds a 49 stake in Alitalia, financially supports the faltering Italian carrier by building an international network.
“We are going to fly directly to Shanghai, Seoul, Tokyo, Beijing and three dailies to Abu Dhabi from Milan, Rome and Venice. Via Abu Dhabi, you can go to India, Australia and all of Southeast Asia,” Ariodante said.
Airline industry watchers said Alitalia’s comeback of to Korea will bolster competition on the Seoul-Rome route.
Asiana, the nation’s second-largest airline, will offer flights between Incheon and Rome three times a week starting June 30. The Korean carrier said the company opened the route to secure a major base in southern Europe and to meet increasing demand for tours to Europe.
“We expect the competition to help the market expand, creating more demand,” Ariodante said.
By Seo Jee-yeon, Korea Herald correspondent (firstname.lastname@example.org