Etihad Airways and Alitalia have finally sealed their partnership, making the financially troubled Italian legacy carrier the eighth airline in Etihad’s Equity Alliance. Under the agreement, Etihad will invest €560 million in Alitalia for a 49 per cent stake. Relaunching and expanding Alitalia’s cargo business to serve the Italian market, Europe’s third largest, is a key part of the Gulf carrier’s strategy, Etihad CEO James Hogan said after signing the deal on 8 August.
“Cargo is an important part of the mix,” said Hogan, at a press conference. “We will put cargo through Malpensa. There are key destinations around the world we can serve.” Alitaila’s Milan hub is set to benefit from the largest investment in cargo activity, via a “centre of excellence,” and other Italian airports will also be upgraded to develop an integrated cargo network.
“The future is secure,” Hogan said, adding: “There’s no quick fix”, a threeyear restructuring plan foresees Alitalia posting a €100 million profit by the end of 2017. Alitalia will rebrand within nine months from now, exit loss-making shorthaul routes and bring in long-haul links from Rome and Milan to destinations like China via Abu Dhabi. Etihad wants Rome to become a bigger intercontinental hub. Alitalia’s SkyTeam membership will continue, Hogan said.