Sorry? What was that? Yes we wouldn’t blame you for looking twice at the image above. Alitalia really has launched a new livery, and whilst the awaiting press may have been a little disappointed to not see something perhaps as young, bold and dynamic as Etihad’s recent (award-winning) livery, we are delighted with the result.
Apart from the removal of the ‘retro’ cheat line running along the fuselage, and extending the iconic ‘A’ to wrap around the empennage, there isn’t a huge difference to the unfamiliar eye. However, as today set out to deliver, this launch was less about a livery, and more about a new brand ‘promise’.
There is something truly refreshing in this active decision not to change their image dramatically. Alitalia have played to their roots with divine sensibility. There is no doubt that the carrier has had a rocky past. Fueled with strikes, unions and failed buyout attempts the Italian flag carrier is still an inherently proud airline with a proud following. Before the press event, there was an unveiling event for the staff – in a sign that Alitalia are now putting their staff first. To us, that means something.
1,500 Alitalia staff were invited in the morning to their own personal unveiling, and were joined by special guest of honour, Italian Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.
The New Livery
“The new livery presented today marks a major milestone in the history of one of the most iconic Italian brands in the world,” said Luca Cordero di Montezemolo, Chairman of Alitalia. “We are looking to the future of Alitalia, our national carrier. It has gone through some hard times but with our new partnership with Etihad Airways we are able to re-evaluate our product.”
“Alitalia’s livery is universally associated with Italy and viewed as iconic and is globally recognised. However, it was clear that it needed to evolve to bring Alitalia into the 21st century in a way that could meet our ambitious objectives and the most demanding market expectations. What you see here today is classic Italian style projected into the future with a modern, fresh feel. It is about reconnecting Alitalia with Italy, and promoting Italy in the world. Our entire company is dedicated to working together to make this happen.”
Most will remember the uproar recently when American so drastically changed its iconic livery that had been virtually untouched for half a century – even its staff only narrowly voted the new livery into life.
In contrast, Alitalia’s 46 year-long livery heritage will continue to thrive, with the only change coming from the disappearance of the green band from the fuselage being replaced with a pearlescent finish instead. It is this very reason that we love the Alitalia new look. Instead of reinventing, or rebranding the original Landor design, the carrier has very cleverly embraced its heritage, and national pride for the brand, and re-employed Landor to purely refresh it to speak to a more contemporary audience. Sometimes a simple change (or no change) can be the most powerful.
The core of the new livery remains the signature “A“ tailfin, but proudly enlarged “serving as a powerful representation of the Italian flag across the world.” A subtle shift, and perhaps the most expected of changes can be seen in the introduction of a more modern logotype and the new non-Italic style conveys “the confidence and assertiveness of the new Alitalia.”
In a bid to keep its livery delivering well into the future, subtle textures have been added, such as the new stripes found in the iconic red triangle and the duotone colour shift in the green elements offering depth and highlight. On the fuselage near the tail, the finish breaks out, and creates a “sense of speed” by utilizing a series of bands progressively leading towards the iconic “A” of the aircraft.
The first aircraft to be painted (originally an Etihad A330) is named Artemisia Gentileschi, after an Italian Baroque painter, today considered one of the most accomplished painters in the generation following that of Caravaggio. Jun 5th it will embark on its first journey to Abu Dhabi, before returning to Milan the same day.
The New Interior
To match the contemporary new livery, Alitalia has also embarked on a two year, €350million refresh of the cabin décor of Alitalia’s fleet of Airbus, Boeing and Embraer aircraft, showcasing stylish Italian inspired interiors which are exquisitely detailed with finishes akin with luxury sports cars.
Leading Italian brands will be largely represented on board, starting from the new Poltrona Frau leather design on Business Class seats (there’s a hint of Etihad here), Frette bedding, Richard Ginori tableware and naturaly Ferragamo amenity kits, and soon to be revealed, new uniforms which will enter service in 2016.
Matching the Etihad ‘Premium Airline’ concept, Alitalia’s new long-haul inflight experience places considerable emphasis on greater customer choice, innovation, quality, and importantly, more personal control over how guests relax, dine and are entertained on board.
With immediate effect, Wi-fi connectivity will progressively be made available on all long-haul aircraft, together with revamped movie galleries and inflight entertainment. Alitalia will install Panasonic GCS WiFi, LiveTV and 2G GSM connectivity as well as Panasonic eX2 IFE systems on all its A330 and Boeing 777 aircraft.
“Just as our new livery simplifies, clarifies and improves our Alitalia logo, so our new service concept simplifies, clarifies and improves our customer offer. It is about putting our guests right at the heart of what we do.” Silvano Cassano, Alitalia Chief Executive Officer said.
“We have developed this new concept in a way which delivers and showcases the best of Italian style and hospitality, while also taking inspiration from the centres of excellence around the Etihad Partners network.”
The new interiors are rich in texture & colour and in all three cabin classes (including Premium Economy currently only available on their 777 fleet) there is a new emphasis on detail, although the physical products haven’t actually changed. The cabins are now much warmer in tone and the cooler grey palettes have gone.
It wasn’t announced whether the A330s will actually ever receive the new Premium Economy seats as this new cabin concept was rolled out in just 5 months, and utilizing an already existing aircraft from Etihad. Time will tell whether the inflight product will gradually be more refined as the fleet is retrofitted and added to.
The New Airline
James Hogan also hosted the conference, and was very much at the trigger of delivering these new service and product improvements. Much of what we see in the new Alitalia has the hallmarks of Etihad’s current hard product.
James Hogan revealed that already 1,000 of Alitalia’s crew have been to Abu Dhabi to undergo intensive training with Etihad in a bid to lift the service product, with a further 3,000 heading over through the rest of the year to undergo similar training.
In a similar move to Etihad, Alitalia will offer the ‘Dine Anytime’ service, still a relatively unique product in the business class market. The new menu will feature Italian meals that will be served course by course and delivered by hand, removing the need for an aisle trolley and providing a bespoke dining experience. Another new culinary feature in Business Class is the Spuntino menu, which features a selection of delicious snacks that can be enjoyed throughout the flight.
But James Hogan doesn’t seem to want to just roll out another Etihad in Europe. “Alitalia is an iconic brand. What a way to enter Italy, than with Alitalia. We took great interest in the ‘Italian brand’ when repositioning the carrier. If we can involve the core values of true Italian culture, we could create a very powerful brand.”
Etihad’s 1.76billion Euro investment isn’t just in brand, product or service offering. Alitalia will now be able to focus on delivering new routes with increased frequencies and really put the customer first once again. Commercially speaking, Alitalia has struck gold as Etihad Airways group now offers an increased reach on an already established SkyTeam network. The Etihad group of airlines covers 620 destinations with 720 aircraft and carries 116 million passengers.
There is also a hint at new routes, with double daily services from Rome and Milan to Abu Dhabi and daily flights from Venice. The airline is also looking to add long haul connectivity to Bologna and Catania, still relatively untapped long-haul destinations.
In 2015, Alitalia will start flying to Beijing, Seoul, and Shanghai, in 2016, Mexico City and Santiago Chile will be added to the map, with San Francisco on the cards in 2018. To match this growth, the new improved Italian carrier plans to expand its wide body fleet by 32% (helped out by Etihad’s large aircraft order placed in 2013) whilst reducing its short haul capacity by 13%.
On paper, Alitalia is going to have a very exciting future. Regular readers of TheDesignAir will know how well we value Etihad’s product, and the obvious replication of such a product in a European carrier can only serve to benefit the airline. The new livery is actually very beautiful and superbly proportioned on both A320 and A330, and the new interiors will do wonders to inject new life into the ailing carrier. Service, however will be the hardest nut to crack, and a checkered history may have left many front line staff a little bit cautious of such an internal change. That said, looking at the smiling and excited Alitalia staff who crossed our path on entering the Hangar, maybe this once troubled Italian icon may now have exactly the right tools to bring pride back once again. Both in its staff, and its passengers. We can’t wait to try out the new product soon.