Alitalia Spreads its Wings: An Interview with Nicola Bonacchi and Emiliana Limosani

On a jubilant note, after a successful first year, Nicola Bonacchi, Vice President, Leisure Sales & International Markets, and Emiliana Limosani, Vice President, Global Business Travel Sales & Commercial Partnerships, Alitalia Società Aerea Italiana S.P.A. discuss expansion plans, business strategy and challenges confronting Alitalia in India

Alitalia, Italy’s former flag carrier and one of the largest airline companies in Europe, is in expansion spree in India. Nicola Bonacchi, Vice President, Leisure Sales & International Markets, and Emilia Limosani, Vice President, Global Business Travel Sales and Commercial Partnerships spoke candidly about the future plans of the company to expand its business in India, especially in the extremely competitive business travel segment.

TT: In the event of your having completed one year, how do you rate your performance and how happy are you with it?

Nicola Bonacchi: We are very happy, as we have crossed the first year with extremely good results. We share a fantastic rapport with our partners on the field and had a load factor of 83.5 percent. It was great for us in the first year, with sometimes more than 90 percent load factor in Economy Class and 76 percent load factor in Business Class. The focus this year is the Business Class in particular, but we will work with different segments. We will concentrate on leisure, because we know that in India, there is a market for leisure. We have a great working relationship with all travel agents and had a successful meeting where we shared our strategy and results. Worldwide, Alitalia increased its revenue by 7 percent this year to 190 million Euros, making it one of the best years for us within the last 10 years. Alitalia is diligent when it comes to work and ranks second in Europe when it comes to punctuality. These elements will help greatly in enhancing our position in the business market and the business segment. To discuss these issues, I would like to introduce my colleague, Emiliana Limosani, Vice President, Global Business Travel Sales & Commercial Partnerships, Alitalia Società Aerea Italiana S.P.A.

Emiliana Limosani: We are working to develop our strategy to increase the high yield segment and to drive growth in sales in the business travel segment. We are open and have launched a new route with the Delhi flight. With regard to the business travel segment, we are working closely with the TMCs in terms of new agreements, and have been working with corporates since the last three months. We have already signed around 50 contracts and 50 agreements with them, which is an optimistic number. We wish to continue working with both Italian and Indian companies. We wasn’t to work on expanding our client portfolio globally. When it comes to our product, we have an exemplary product for the business travel segment. Our Business Class has totally reclinable seats and food is of exceptional quality. Wi-Fi service is free for Business and Premium Economy travellers. We have a new lounge in Fiumicino Airport for passengers travelling point to point or passengers travelling to North or South America.

TT: How is the MICE market? Are you also tapping that market?

Emiliana Limosani: MICE is part of the business travel segment. We are working on that and plan to organise trips to Italy for Indian companies. We can offer very exclusive services for groups, starting from commercial prospective during the organisation all the way through to special and ad hoc airport assistance.

TT: Are you planning to expand your network in India?

Nicola Bonacchi: Our target now is to achieve a good profitability on the Delhi flight. We have a good load factor and the aim is to increase the average coupon value. When we arrive at a good profitability, the next step in India will be Mumbai. Regarding new destinations, we plan to open in Washington DC, in May, which is great for government traffic and for corporates or companies who travel there. All our destinations in North America are significant for leisure markets. We have a daily flight to Toronto, double daily flights to New York, daily flights to Miami, and plans are afoot to open again to Chicago. We also have a daily flight to Los Angeles. Mid-April, we have a new destination slated for leisure and MICE, which is Costa Smeralda, in the north of Sardinia. We will also increase our position in Africa, having increased one flight more to South Africa; and from next winter, we confirm Maldives and Mauritius. We are trying to push as much as we can on the numbers, because we want to confirm the results we have this year. India is one of our most important markets, where we have made big investments. We have a strong team in Delhi and in Mumbai and we realise that the competition is strong, but we wish to strive hard and play our cards right with all that we have at our disposal in order to steer the volume from our competitors to us.

TT: Is Delhi giving you the numbers from the feeder areas?

Nicola Bonacchi: Yes. We have volume from Calcutta and Mumbai, but it is mainly leisure. Direct flights to Italy are preferred. But, we will take one step at a time. Our strategy is to arrive at a good revenue from Delhi, with the next step being Mumbai.

TT: Finally, in 2019, what do you think is your biggest challenge?

Nicola Bonacchi: The challenge from the India market is to increase the average coupon value in line with our target, which is to increase our presence in the leisure and business segments. When we arrive at the stipulated number, we will be ready to open our Mumbai flights.