What looks very obvious in terms of success sometimes turns out to be the most challenging! The India – Italy market seems to be one of these for the last decade or so. Come December, ITA – the national airline of Italy, which replaced Alitalia, will launch flights to Delhi from Rome. The flights will begin December 03, 2022 with thrice a week service. Interestingly the flight number is the same while the timings are identical to what Alitalia operated.
The flights from Rome to Delhi will depart on Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays while the return flights will depart Delhi on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays.
AZ770 FCO1410 – 0200(+1)DEL
AZ769 DEL0350 – 0810FCO
The airline will deploy the A330s on this route which are configured in three classes – Business (20), Premium Economy(17) and Economy (219).
This makes it the fifth airline to try the India – Italy segment in the last decade. Jet Airways, Alitalia, Air India, Air Italy have been the others who have had scheduled operations.
Jet Airways started operations between Delhi and Milan on Dec 05, 2010 with the A330s it had in its fleet. The daily flights with afternoon departure from India and late evening from Milan were in codeshare with Alitalia. The airline pulled out of the route in February 2013, having reduced frequency a few months earlier.
In June 2014, Air India – with the Dreamliners handy and effective hub at Delhi shaping up, launched flights to Rome and Milan. Four times a week the flight operated Delhi – Rome – Milan – Delhi, while on the other three days it operated Delhi – Milan – Rome – Delhi. Subsequently the airline started operating terminators to both Rome and Milan from Delhi. Air India operations to Italy ended in March 2020, as Italy was inundated with COVID after China. The airline has not returned to Italy.
The most short-lived was Air Italy which was co-owned by Qatar Airways. Not only did it pull out of India, the airline itself shut down. The airline commenced operations in March 2018 and shut down in February 2020. The airline had launched flights to Mumbai and Delhi in December 2018 but pulled out in February and March 2019 respectively.
Alitalia returned to India in 2017, with flights between Rome and Delhi after having pulled out in 2008. The airline was operating till the suspension of services due to a lockdown in India. The airline does not exist on the other side of worldwide lockdowns and its replacement ITA seems to be taking over the route.
ITA Airways is a company totally owned by the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance for the exercise of business in the air transport sector. The airline has been active since November 2020. It replaced Alitalia which has been going through a tough time for a while before shutting down. Alitalia had investments from Etihad and also the Air France – KLM group.The Italian government is in talks to sell stake in ITA to airlines or fund houses as per news reports.
Tourism, NRIs and Business
News reports had indicated that after the UK, it is Italy which hosts largest Indian diaspora in Europe. The concentration is higher towards the northern part as compared to the middle and southern regions of Italy. The country has been a popular tourist destination for Indians and a favourite for group tour operators as well.
India – Italy business has expanded rapidly with the balance of trade in favour of India. While India imports machinery, machine tools, leather products, automobile parts; India exports Iron, Steel, Chemical products, refined Petroleum products amongst others.
Stats and Bilaterals
In Q4-CY19, the last full quarter of operations pre-COVID, the PDEW (Per Day Each Way) traffic between Rome and Delhi was averaging at 105 passengers on non-stop flights as per data released by DGCA, the Indian regulator. The data does not capture passengers who flew one stop. The true O-D (Origin-Destination) demand has ranged between 250 – 325 passengers PDEW.
The India – Italy Air Services Agreement (ASA) allows for 24 weekly services by each side between the two countries and they have largely remained unutilised.
Indira Gandhi International Airport, New Delhi is the largest airport in India and the go to airport to start services in India for most airlines, while Leonardo da Vinci Airport, Rome Airport is the busiest in Italy.
Since the start of the pandemic, SpiceJet has been instrumental in connecting Amritsar to Milan. ITA is re-establishing connectivity which existed with Alitalia. The summer has seen Indians flock to Europe. In absence of Chinese tourists, countries and airlines have relied on Indian tourists to cover the shortfall
While the flights are just thrice weekly, they will connect both ways to ITA’s American destinations and most of its European flights. This will give additional options to Delhi based passengers to fly to North America and Europe.
The airline could see competition from Air India, if it decides to re-enter the market when it has more aircraft available. In a couple of years from now, when IndiGo inducts the A321XLRs, Rome and Milan would be the prime destinations on the radar. Will it stick to the tried and tested markets or will it diversify to secondary markets will be known then.
For now, it would be interesting to see if ITA decides to interline or codeshare with any of the carriers in India and if yes then who would it be?
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