The Colosseum is among the many sights in Rome. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News
The Colosseum is among the many sights in Rome. Chris Ratcliffe / Bloomberg News

Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways lands in Rome with bigger target in sights

rome // Etihad Airways landed its first flight in Rome yesterday morning, but its plans for Italy include a capital infusion of another sort.

The Abu Dhabi airline used an Airbus A330 for the six-and-a-half hour flight. Etihad flight EY83 touched down at 7.10am Rome time under sunny skies, and a ribbon-cutting celebration took place at the airport.

From Etihad, Khaled Ghaith Al Mehairbi, senior vice president of governmental and aero-political affairs, and Hassan Al Hammadi, senior vice president of executive affairs, were present.

Giorgio Starace, the Italian ambassador to the UAE, also attended.

Meanwhile, Etihad is awaiting regulatory approval for its purchase of a stake of up to 49 per cent in the Italian flagship carrier Alitalia. Last month, Alitalia said that its board of directors had given its backing to a deal, which is expected to be completed this month.

Will Horton, a senior analyst at the Sydney-based Centre for Aviation, said the Rome route has good long-term prospects for Etihad.

“Etihad entered Italy later than Emirates and Qatar and has had a smaller presence, so organic growth is good for it. Traffic to/from Rome should be good for Etihad considering how little Alitalia flies east of Europe, but with time there are notable opportunities for traffic beyond Rome as Alitalia comes into focus and Etihad Regional amasses scale,” he said via email.

Etihad Regional, a Swiss carrier formerly known as Darwin Airline, is one of Etihad’s seven equity alliance partners.

At Alitalia, Etihad is demanding downsizing measures and thousands of job cuts at the loss-making airline in exchange for injecting capital – just as it did when it took stakes in Air Serbia and Air Seychelles.

Etihad has gained a reputation for turning around struggling airlines in which it invests, however Alitalia could become its biggest challenge. Mr Hogan previously declined to say exactly how many jobs would be lost at Alitalia, but the Italian airline’s chief executive, Gabriele Del Torchio, is reported to have put the figure at 2,200 of the carrier’s 14,000 staff.

Three of Alitalia's labour unions had been planning a strike for this coming Sunday. However, the Anpac pilots' union told The National that the strike "was put off after successful talks with the government".

Other conditions that Etihad is expected to exert in order to turn Alitalia’s performance around include cutting loss-making routes, negotiating new employment contracts with highly paid staff and reducing airport costs.

According to reports quoting the Italian transport minister, Maurizio Lupi, under the terms of the potential deal Etihad is likely to invest up to €1.25 billion (Dh6.22bn) in Alitalia over four years. Of that, €560 million would be spent on Alitalia shares, while the remaining €690m would be spent on upgrading its airplanes, interiors and training staff.

Etihad also began service yesterday to the western Australian city of Perth.

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The biog

Age: 59

From: Giza Governorate, Egypt

Family: A daughter, two sons and wife

Favourite tree: Ghaf

Runner up favourite tree: Frankincense 

Favourite place on Sir Bani Yas Island: “I love all of Sir Bani Yas. Every spot of Sir Bani Yas, I love it.”


5pm: Wathba Stallions Cup Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (Dirt) 1,000m, Winner: Hazeem Al Raed, Antonio Fresu (jockey), Ahmed Al Shemaili (trainer)

5.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 85,000 (D) 1,000m, Winner: Ghazwan Al Khalediah, Hugo Lebouc, Helal Al Alawi

6pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,400m, Winner: Dinar Al Khalediah, Patrick Cosgrave, Helal Al Alawi.

6.30pm: Handicap (TB) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Faith And Fortune, Sandro Paiva, Ali Rashid Al Raihe.

7pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: Only Smoke, Bernardo Pinheiro, Abdallah Al Hammadi.

7.30pm: Handicap (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 1,600m, Winner: AF Ramz, Saif Al Balushi, Khalifa Al Neyadi.

8pm: Maiden (PA) Dh 70,000 (D) 2,000m, Winner: AF Mass, Tadhg O’Shea, Ernst Oertel.

Diriyah project at a glance

- Diriyah’s 1.9km King Salman Boulevard, a Parisian Champs-Elysees-inspired avenue, is scheduled for completion in 2028
- The Royal Diriyah Opera House is expected to be completed in four years
- Diriyah’s first of 42 hotels, the Bab Samhan hotel, will open in the first quarter of 2024
- On completion in 2030, the Diriyah project is forecast to accommodate more than 100,000 people
- The $63.2 billion Diriyah project will contribute $7.2 billion to the kingdom’s GDP
- It will create more than 178,000 jobs and aims to attract more than 50 million visits a year
- About 2,000 people work for the Diriyah Company, with more than 86 per cent being Saudi citizens

Sweet Tooth

Creator: Jim Mickle
Starring: Christian Convery, Nonso Anozie, Adeel Akhtar, Stefania LaVie Owen
Rating: 2.5/5

Some of Darwish's last words

"They see their tomorrows slipping out of their reach. And though it seems to them that everything outside this reality is heaven, yet they do not want to go to that heaven. They stay, because they are afflicted with hope." - Mahmoud Darwish, to attendees of the Palestine Festival of Literature, 2008

His life in brief: Born in a village near Galilee, he lived in exile for most of his life and started writing poetry after high school. He was arrested several times by Israel for what were deemed to be inciteful poems. Most of his work focused on the love and yearning for his homeland, and he was regarded the Palestinian poet of resistance. Over the course of his life, he published more than 30 poetry collections and books of prose, with his work translated into more than 20 languages. Many of his poems were set to music by Arab composers, most significantly Marcel Khalife. Darwish died on August 9, 2008 after undergoing heart surgery in the United States. He was later buried in Ramallah where a shrine was erected in his honour.

What is Genes in Space?

Genes in Space is an annual competition first launched by the UAE Space Agency, The National and Boeing in 2015.

It challenges school pupils to design experiments to be conducted in space and it aims to encourage future talent for the UAE’s fledgling space industry. It is the first of its kind in the UAE and, as well as encouraging talent, it also aims to raise interest and awareness among the general population about space exploration.

UAE currency: the story behind the money in your pockets