In two months, assuming current timelines hold, Alitalia will no longer be flying, and a new airline, currently dubbed ITA, will rise and start flying. With no partners in the United States yet, this leaves Italy up for grabs for US airlines, and it could be a tough fight.
Delta and Alitalia alliance has loomed
Delta Air Lines and Alitalia are both part of the same alliance – the SkyTeam alliance. At one point, the two airlines were also joint venture partners covering transatlantic flying. Over the last few years, this has also led Delta to expand its flying to Italy. Recently, it launched new flights between Boston Logan International Airport (BOS) and Rome’s Leonardo Da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport (FCO).
Delta serves three cities in Italy: Milan, Rome, and Venice. Rome gets the most transatlantic nonstops on Delta to Boston, New York, and Atlanta. Venice gets nonstop flights to Atlanta and New York, and Milan is also expected to get flights to both cities next summer.
This is on top of all the transatlantic flying Alitalia does. This includes flights to Los Angeles, Miami, New York, Washington D.C., Chicago, and Boston (pre-crisis). With October 15th expected to be the day Alitalia gives way to ITA, these flights are not coming back in earnest.
More opportunities for US airlines
While ITA will resemble the existing Alitalia, the carrier is not planning to immediately bring a large long-haul network from Italy to the US. This raises a host of new opportunities for US carriers.
Italy became a flashpoint in the fight between US airlines and Middle Eastern carriers. One of the largest points of contention was Air Italy, which Qatar Airways backed and flew out of Milan. This was on top of the fifth-freedom routes between the US and Italy, including the Emirates fifth-freedom route between Milan and New York.
From summer 2019 to summer 2022, the New York to Milan market (including Newark) will go from six carriers down to four. Neos has also launched flights between Milan and New York, but it has not yet released its schedules to confirm its plans to fly between the two cities next summer. If Neos does jump in again next summer, it only flies a few times per week, meaning less capacity than other airlines bring to the market.
There is also the potential for ITA to jump into the ring. Even if ITA does jump in, it will not have the same brand recognition and loyalty that Alitalia had, giving it a challenging startup premise in the market.
Alitalia’s former customers may turn to Delta Air Lines, as they may have familiarity with the carrier thanks to the codeshare partnership and Delta’s existing presence in the markets.
United Airlines has plans to fly to four cities in Italy (Venice, Rome, Milan, and Naples) next summer, mostly using Boeing 767 aircraft. American Airlines plans to fly to Venice, Rome, and Milan using Boeing 777 and 787 aircraft next summer.
American Airlines, in particular, could have unique opportunities out of its hub at New York-JFK. Despite offering a robust transatlantic network out of Philadelphia, the carrier has shown no qualms about adding flights from New York. This is thanks to the Northeast Alliance it has in place with JetBlue that gives it access to connecting feed in addition to origin and destination demand.
There is precedent for airlines to add new flights to destinations served by beleaguered carriers that are struggling or undergoing a restructuring. This includes United Airlines, which launched a new Newark-Johannesburg with South African Airways out of the market.
Lastly, with Norwegian exiting the long-haul transatlantic market, the previous overcapacity in the transatlantic market, and the retirement of quad-jets from major European airlines that sold connecting itineraries, there may be more demand than there are seats available, pushing airlines to add new long-haul capacity.
Pent-up demand may continue to show itself in summer 2022. While Italy opened up relatively early in the summer cycle, the ongoing transatlantic travel ban barring foreign nationals from flying from Italy to the United States and ongoing testing requirements have kept some passengers on the sidelines who may come out in force next year to visit Italy during the peak summer season.
Will ITA partner with a US carrier?
ITA has kept some details under wraps. The airline only added its first plane in the last few days and has not detailed many of its plans, including schedules and firm routes, though it is clear it will start off being smaller than Alitalia.
If ITA wants to continue Alitalia’s legacy in the US, it could turn to Delta Air Lines for a partnership. Or, free from its predecessor’s partnerships and alliance membership, ITA could look at the other major carriers in the US and partner with them.
Are you planning a trip to Italy next year? For loyal Alitalia passengers, which airline are you now looking at flying between the US and Italy? Let us know in the comments!