Alitalia May Soon Enter Joint Venture with Delta, Air France-KLM

May 2, 2019

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Alitalia may soon join forces with Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM. The airlines involved are negotiating terms that would grant Italy’s flag carrier associate membership into the current transatlantic agreement between Air France, Delta, KLM and Virgin Atlantic.

The Italian airline is already a member of the SkyTeam alliance, meaning that Delta SkyMiles can be earned and spent on its flights, but is not a part of the closer transatlantic joint venture with Delta.

“Nothing is changing from an operational point of view – from a commercial point of view it’s just changing the way we remunerate each other on our flights,” said Alitalia’s chief business officer, Fabio Lazzerini at an event for the launch of Alitalia’s new Rome to Washington, DC route, according to FlightGlobal. For passengers, this would mean that Delta SkyMiles and Flying Blue miles will still be earned at the current rate on Alitalia flights; the only change is in the way the airlines split revenue.

In commercial aviation, joint ventures allow separate carriers to operate as a single entity within certain designated markets. Benefits include sharing revenue and splitting costs, minimizing competition on advertising, and streamlining schedules to offer better routing options for travelers. Alitalia currently flies from Milan Malpensa airport (MXP) to New York JFK, and from Rome (FCO) to JFK, Boston, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago O’Hare and now DC. It offers a well-regarded business class, premium economy and economy on all its Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s serving the US.    

Delta, Air France-KLM and Virgin Atlantic first pursued US Department of Transportation approval for antitrust immunity in July 2018, and a new appeal will be filed to add Alitalia to the partnership once the airline’s terms of associate membership are finalized, which Lazzerini anticipates by the end of May.

Meanwhile, Delta separately continues to investigate a possible investment in bankrupt Alitalia, which is kept afloat by a government loan of 900 million euros. The Atlanta-based US carrier already owns a 49% stake in Virgin Atlantic, and an 8.8% stake in Air France-KLM.

Featured photo by Alberto Riva/TPG.

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