There was a great market opening in Northern Italy for scheduled air services, as the weakened Alitalia decided to focus on their hub in Rome. Ryanair was among the first operators to announce that it’s capable of placing a few aircraft there, but in the end it seems that Lufthansa is the first airline to actually make a strong move.
Lufthansa has been shopping around Europe as we reported earlier, but has missed out on purchasing a stake in the re-launched Alitalia a few weeks ago, who in the end chose to cooperate with their long-time SkyTeam partner, Air France-KLM. Lufthansa (and Star Alliance) had a very good relationship to the second biggest Italian carrier, Air One, but Air One is included in the newly formed Alitalia, thus probably that relationship will sooner or later end. But the German flag-carrier is not sitting around waiting for that, instead, they have chosen a different way to strengthen their position in the Italian market: setting up their own subsidiary outside the safe German home-market.
The new Lufthansa Italia took to the skies on January 28, 2009 with a panoramic flight over the Alps which was followed by the christening ceremony of its first two Airbus A319s, named “Milano” and “Varese” respectively. Until now all Lufthansa planes have been named after German cities, therefore these new names are symbolically emphasizing their aggressive expansion strategy and real focus on the Italian market.
The A319s were painted in Lufthansa Italia livery and refurbished with 138 seats across two classes. The cabin interior will be designed Italian-style, in-flight service will be in the hands of Italian fights attendants and Italian delicacies will round off the in-flight cuisine. Scheduled service will start February 2, 2009, with the first two destinations: thrice daily flights to both Barcelona and Paris (Charles de Gaulle). After the arrival of the next two aircraft, starting March 2, 2009 twice daily flights to Brussels, Budapest and Madrid plus a daily service to Bucharest will be added to the timetable four weeks later. London (Heathrow) (four-times-daily ! ) and Lisbon (daily) will be brought into the network from the start of the 2009 summer flight schedules at the end of March when another two Airbus A319s join the fleet. Five aircraft are ex-Germanwings and one will come from the Lufthansa mainline. The new services will provide Lufthansa customers with fast, non-stop connections to European metropolises.
In the summer, the new airline will operate some 260 weekly flights out of MXP in addition to the 140 operated by Lufthansa. This will mean that Lufthansa and Lufthansa Italia will operate a total of weekly 400 flights from Milan-Malpensa!
Once LH Italia receives its own Air Operators Certificate (AOC), it will employ some 300 people. Lufthansa Italia is seeking an Italian AOC in large part to secure traffic rights to non-EU destinations like Eastern Europe or countries that do not have open skies agreements with the EU.