(MENAFN - Emirates News Agency (WAM)) Alitalia, Italy's flag carrier has begun direct services from Rome to Abu Dhabi with a celebratory flight to the capital of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) arriving last night.
Flight AZ854 touched down at Abu Dhabi International Airport at 7.55pm local time and was greeted by a traditional water canon salute.
Also greeting the flight were Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE Minister for Foreign Trade, Giorgio Starace, Italian Ambassador to the UAE, Ali Majed Al Mansoori, Chairman of the Abu Dhabi Airports Company (ADAC), and senior executives from Etihad Airways.
Alitalia are operating the new flights in conjunction with codeshare partner Etihad Airways. The launch of the new direct Rome-Abu Dhabi service follows last August's announcement that the Italian carrier would fly four weekly return Airbus A330 services between the two capitals.
Welcoming the flight to Abu Dhabi International Airport, Sheikha Lubna bint Khalid Al Qasimi, UAE Minister for Foreign Trade, said: "It is always a pleasure to see the relationship between the UAE and its friends growing into actual business ventures and economic cooperation. Alitalia's decision to come to Abu Dhabi demonstrates the capital's growing importance as a trade and tourism hub in the Middle East. Abu Dhabi is looking forward to further deepening such opportunities in ways which are beneficial to all parties." James Hogan, President and Chief Executive Officer of Etihad Airways, said: "Today's flight is yet another positive milestone in our expanding partnership with Alitalia. It underscores our commitment to grow the partnership by providing this new and fantastic proposition for both airlines' business and leisure customers, giving them direct access to Rome and Abu Dhabi respectively, and beyond across both networks. In addition, it allows customers to earn and burn frequent flyer miles on both airlines' combined networks. We look forward to further developing our relationship and exploring more codeshare opportunities in the future." Ali Majed Al Mansoori, Chairman of ADAC, said: "Abu Dhabi is witnessing continuous growth in air traffic movements as a result of joint Government and corporate' efforts to provide world-class airports and aviation services, and the position Abu Dhabi holds as a key connecting destination in the region. ADAC is proud to welcome Alitalia to Abu Dhabi International Airport and is committed to offering the airline unparalleled service, whilst welcoming Italian passengers to the world-class city of Abu Dhabi." Andrea Tucci, Alitalia Vice President Alliances '&' Network Agreements, said: "Today marks the first time Alitalia lands at Abu Dhabi International Airport, one of the most important hubs in the world. The new Alitalia Rome-Abu Dhabi route strengthens the partnership between Alitalia and Etihad Airways, developed in December 2009 with a codesharing agreement. Thanks to this new flight, Italian travellers now have the opportunity to travel to the UAE with a direct link from Rome and, via an easy connection at Abu Dhabi International Airport with Etihad Airways, to many important tourist destinations across Australia, Thailand, Oman, Bahrain and South Africa." He added, "We're extremely proud that these four weekly flights will be operated by a brand new Alitalia Airbus A330. On board our aircraft our customers will be able to experience our "Magnifica" business class service, the top of its category globally, and savour our delicious onboard menu which has recently been awarded "Best Airline Cuisine" for the third year in a row by American Global Traveller magazine.
Flights from Abu Dhabi depart at 8:15am on Thursdays and Sundays, and at 2:25am on Mondays and Wednesdays. Flights from Rome depart at 9:45pm on Wednesdays and Saturdays and at 11:15am on Tuesdays and Sundays.
The split schedule ensures maximum connectivity over Abu Dhabi International Airport - Etihad Airways' hub - to codeshare destinations such as Bahrain, Muscat, Johannesburg, Bangkok, Melbourne and Sydney.
Equally, the new service will ensure efficient codeshare connectivity beyond Rome to the cities of Athens, Milan, Frankfurt, Munich, Geneva, Venice and Zurich.
In addition to the codeshare with Alitalia, Etihad Airways has 40 other codeshare agreements in place with airlines across the world. Codeshare partnerships, along with equity acquisitions and organic growth, form the three pillars of Etihad Airways' expansion plans.