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2/1/2009 – A New Year & Alitalia’s Chance At Rebirth
I ended the year discussing Alitalia, so I figured it was only logical to start the year discussing Alitalia.
On the 13th of January the sun will rise of Rome, and Alitalia (AZ) Flight #611 departing New York’s JFK International Airport the evening before will be one of the first flights to watch the sunrise over Italy from a vantage point outside of Europe.
Alitalia Flight #611’s arrival on the 13th of January at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci – Fiumicino Airport (FCO) is significant for Alitalia. The 13th of January is the date the airline is scheduled to be relaunched. A few days ago the merger between Italy’s second largest airline Air One and Alitalia was made official and the plan to reintroduce the airline on the 13th of this month was confirmed.
It is now expected that Air France-KLM will purchase a stake in the new Alitalia, which will allow Alitalia to stay in its airline alliance, SkyTeam. It is notable that KLM broke its inter-airline alliance with Alitalia in 2002, before KLM merged with Air France to become “Air France-KLM” on the 5th of May 2004. Air France-KLM are an absolute powerhouse in terms of being a massive European airline, second only to Lufthansa (who was also bidding to buy a substantial stake in Alitalia). Air France-KLM can be an absolute positive force in the restructuring and resurrection of the failing airline.
Many have speculated on Alitalia’s death in the past few years. In the past few months you could hear the funeral march and see the gravedigger in the field digging a hole for Alitalia, however the airline was spared by CAI and Air One. Air One will take on Alitalia’s name, and the airline has two options, be successful, and be better than the competition, or fail and fall off everyone’s radar.
What does Alitalia need to be successful? Well this list is long and complex; however there are some things Alitalia must be right now, before the relaunch, during the relaunch, and immediately following the relaunch. A few basic things come to mine, in no particular order:
1) Alitalia must embark on a massive multi-platform marketing campaign. This campaign must stress the ‘new airline’ and target multiple types of flyers.
2) Alitalia must try something different to catch the attention of flyers. The airline has been written off my many and they need to know the airline is in the air.
3) Alitalia must embrace technology to attract new flyers
4) Alitalia must heavily court premium frequent flyers and business-class flyers. The airline cannot currently compete with its European counterparts for many in-flight and ground amenities, so they must showcase their service and style.
5) Alitalia MUST work on the customer experience. A long-standing problem with customer satisfaction has been the lack of a quality customer experience. Alitalia certainly has style, but style means nothing without service
6) Alitalia must offer competitive frequent flyer options
7) Alitalia must showcase their frequent flyer program and why its options are superior (after they revamp the options)
8 ) Alitalia must embrace viral marketing, approaching travel writers, airline writers and others who cover the industry and who get traffic from their target market. They must convince these commentators on the airline industry that Alitalia is viable
9) Alitalia must make Brett Snyder, over at The Cranky Flyer a believer in the airline. If you read is very popular Blog and other published comments on the industry, in regard to Alitalia you’ll understand why they need to make him a believer.
10) Alitalia must get it right. The airline must understand there are no ‘do overs’ and no ‘second chances.’ This is the do over, this is the second chance. If they do not win over flyers and fill the planes right now, making flyers, commentators and The Cranky Flyer believe in them they will fail, they will take Air One down with them, and this relaunch will be have become another blip on the map of ‘former airlines.’
I am not sure why I have taken on the cause of championing Alitalia. They have a history of terrible service, have unrivaled records for lost and delayed luggage, they were referred to as a ‘national disgrace’ by members of the Parlamento Italiano, but there is something about this troubled airline that allows me to believe they can succeed.
I see value in Rome and Milan as Euro-hubs. I see the two hubs positioning on the map as excellent launch points for a number of growing markets. I see the airlines fleet as one that can be maximized for a viable airline operating short-haul, medium-haul and long-haul routes.
If nothing else Pope Benedict XVI has stated he is praying for Alitalia. What more could an airline based a few miles from the Vatican ask for than the prayers of The Pope.
So now…we wait and see what happens next…