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29/03/2009 – Flying With Alitalia & In The Field Airline Research
Over the past few months I have frequently written about the Italian National Flag Carrier, Alitalia Airlines. For those of you who have missed my postings on Alitalia, in short the airline was on the brink of collapse; the airline was bought up by a group of investors; the airline merged with Italy’s #2 carrier Air One; the “New Alitalia” launched in January, and just the other day Air France-KLM officially purchased a 25% stake in the carrier.
Following my last post regarding Alitalia I received a series of e-mails from an industry observer essentially telling me that my research was shallow and that I needed to ‘put up for shut up.’ As much as I disagree that my research was shallow I set out at the end of February to conduct some in-the-field research.
On the 28th of February I spent a part of my day at Paris’ Charles De Gaulle International Airport (CDG) seeking out frequent flyers travelling between Paris/CDG and Rome/FCO. These frequent flyers were traveling on both Alitalia and Air France flights. Both airlines ‘code-shared’ the combination of four flights, two on Alitalia Airbus A320 series aircraft and two on Air France Airbus A320 series aircraft. The first round of flights departed approximately 15 minutes apart, as were the second round of flights.
The information I gathered on the 28th of February was quite interesting on why frequent flyers chose one airline over the other, in many cases having a preference for one airline over the other, until the metrics of pricing came into play.
Not satisfied with speaking with frequent flyers traveling on short-haul routes two days ago I set out for a 43 hour journey on Alitalia while on my way to Amsterdam for a business trip. For this trip rather than fly with Air France & KLM as I have done in the past, I booked my two long-haul trans-Atlantic flights with Alitalia. While my flights from Milan (MXP) to Amsterdam (AMS) were on KLM aircraft, as Alitalia no longer flies its own aircraft on the route I was flying, I made sure to book these flights as Alitalia code-shares, with Alitalia flight numbers.
On Friday I took my seat in the back of an Alitalia 767-300 (763) and departed New York’s JFK International Airport (JFK) bound for Milan’s Malpensa (MXP) on an Alitalia. In a few short hours I will again board an Alitalia 763, this time flying from MXP back to JFK.
During my time in the in Alitalia’s gate area, lounges and in flight I took the opportunity to speak with quite a few passengers regarding their choice in flying with Alitalia and their opinions of the airline. It was interesting how similar the answers were between passengers flying between New York & Milan were compared to those flying between Paris & Rome. Even the answers between the frequent flyers and the casual flyers were strikingly similar in many ways.
The information gathered in the field, along with my own well-travelled opinions have actually furthered my opinions of the airlines. There were certain details that were fleshed out and some areas of interest from flyers that were unexpected.
I plan on finishing up my research when I land in MXP in about 45 minutes, and will continue it through my fourth and final flight of the weekend as I head back to New York.
…so to you ‘Mr. Put-Up-Or-Shut-Up’ thank you for reminding me that nothing beats good hard boots on the ground research.
I plan on following up with Alitalia directly once again following the condensing and organizing of my notes. After I make contact with the airline I’m sure I’ll follow up here.
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