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Alitalia to suspend India, China operations

Alitalia general manager for India Tommaso Fumelli says, "We have decided to temporarily suspend operations to India and China starting with the next summer schedule."
IANS | By Varada Bhat, Mumbai
UPDATED ON MAR 18, 2008 04:43 PM IST

Mounting losses have forced Italian carrier Alitalia to pull out from India and China even as global carriers are spreading their wings over the lucrative South Asian sectors in a big way.

Alitalia general manager for India Tommaso Fumelli said, "The move is in full coherence with recent negotiations held with Air France-KLM group" which Alitalia is planning to join.

"We have decided to temporarily suspend operations to India and China starting with the next summer schedule. We will evaluate the re-opening of India operations once Alitalia profitability conditions will be reinstated," Fumelli told IANS.

Alitalia currently operates a total of 14 daily flights connecting Milan with Mumbai and New Delhi.

Fumelli said the decision was taken on the current route performance, fleet plan and the future set up of the network.

"Alitalia will focus more on North and South America, Japan and Mediterranean countries," he said while explaining the reasons to withdraw from India and China.

Fumelli said Alitalia's Board unanimously approved an official binding offer presented by Air France/KLM Group.

Alitalia will be integrated in the biggest airlines group of the world but will retain its brand and its identity, as clearly stated in the binding offer, said Furnelli.

The state-owned Alitalia, run by Linee Aeree Italiane S.p.A, has not posted an operating profit since 1998.

Last year, the UK based full service scheduled airline, British Midland Airways or BMI, shut down its Indian operations due to dip in load factor. BMI, a member of the largest operating grouping of global carriers Star Alliance operated flights on the busy Mumbai-Heathrow route.

Incidentally, Alitalia belongs to Sky team, the second largest airline alliance with members including Aeroflot, Continental airlines, Air France-KLM, North West, Delta and Korean Air.

Aviaton circles are perturbed by Alitalia's exit at the present time. "It is happening at a time when several Indian carriers like state-owned Air India, the private ones like Jet Airways and others are expanding their international operations especially to European destinations. Kingfisher Airlines is planning to fly international routes by August," said an airport official.

Moreover, carriers like Finnair, British Airways as well as several other private and government-owned airlines are planning to augment operations in south Asia, especially India, he said.

The apex air transport monitoring body International Air Transport Association (IATA) said that in the year 2006-07, airlines operating out of India carried 22.4 million international passengers, with an increase of over 15 percent over the previous year.

The Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, an aviation consultancy, predicted that international traffic to and from India would grow at this rate till the year 2010.

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