Alitalia’s long-awaited, five-year business plan has been published.

Some details have previously been leaked on our forum, but, and it’s a big but, Alitalia management still requires trade union approval before any / all of the measures can be implemented.

The new plan will, according to predictions, see Alitalia return to profit by 2019.

It means the airline will concentrate on higher revenue long-haul services at the expense of short-haul.

In truth all that Alitalia will be doing is falling in line with many other European carriers which have already, or are in the process of, making efficiencies for their shorter flights.

Short-haul services will be operated in line with low-cost airline (LCC) practice.

It means tighter seating, buy-on-board (BOB) catering, more ancillary fees (for amenities which used to be provided free of charge) and greater aircraft utilisation.

The latter will mean that 20 narrow-body (short-haul) aircraft  will be removed from the Alitalia fleet by 2018.

As a network carrier, short-haul is vital to Alitalia. These services feed Alitalia’s higher revenue long-haul departures from its Rome hub.

Says Alitalia’s CEO Cramer Ball, “The aviation industry is ferociously competitive and never stands still. Only through radical change will Alitalia’s fortunes be turned around.”

The airline says that LCCs represent 47 per cent of the Italian market which is the highest penetration in Europe. Readers will know that Ryanair, Easyjet and Eurowings all dominate air service to both Italy’s main and secondary destinations.

Cramer Ball says, “In the short- and medium-haul markets [defined as domestic flying and services within Europe] passengers will be able to personalise their journey. We will simplify air fares and offer customers the opportunity to purchase products such as seat selection, checked-in luggage and priority boarding.

“For flights of under four hours we will introduce the buy-on-board concept. We will offer customers a choice of ‘made in Italy’ hot and cold foods, snacks and drinks at competitive prices.”

Long-haul will retain the full-service product but with “an intense focus on costs and efficiency” says Alitalia.

In addition to its A330 fleet, the carrier’s B777s will be fitted with new IFE and wifi. Alitalia will also be acquiring what it describes as a “flagship aircraft” namely a 382-seater B777-300ER which arrives in August 2017.

This aircraft is, according to reports, coming from either Etihad (which holds a 49 per cent share in Alitalia) or one of its partners.

According to this single B777-300ER will operate three times a week between Rome and Buenos Aires effective September 4.

But for a B777-300ER to be billed as a flagship aircraft makes one realise how today’s Alitalia has changed from the 1970s when it operated a fleet of B747s across a global network.

Alitalia says it “wants to grow its number of flights to the Americas – one of its most underserved markets – and build its presence at Milan Linate (the city’s ‘close-in’ airport), Sardinia and Sicily.”

Until union approval is obtained (and the Alitalia management has yet to meet with them) it is impossible to predict when any of these changes will be implemented.

The worry is that Abu Dhabi-based Etihad, which itself has been forced to make cutbacks, will lose patience with Alitalia should the new business plan not be implemented.