Alitalia wants its passengers to spend a little extra time in Rome on their way to a holiday. The carrier intends to offer “stopover” packages that allow for stays up to three nights when connecting through its hub at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport without a fare surcharge. The new fares will be available to passengers transiting through Rome on international itineraries that neither start nor finish in Italy.
The goal of such programs is to improve passenger bookings, of course, but also to deliver travelers to partners in the lodging and tour industries. Alitalia plans to offer hotel deals and other benefits as part of the stopover packages. The goal is to support Italian tourism as much as it is to help the struggling carrier. But is that the right place to focus efforts?
Read More: Alitalia: Choosing suicide over sacrifice
Other stopover programs have proven spectacularly successful over the years. Icelandair’s efforts are arguably the most famous and the 20+ year history of that program demonstrates its success. Icelandair also had strong motivation to deliver on that front. In addition to needing a way to attract more passengers to its flights the parent company of the airline also owns hotels and tourism operations in the island nation.
The carrier doubled down on that effort with the “Stopover Buddy” program where travelers could be paired up with an employee to explore a particular location or participate in an activity. That program is on hiatus but the allure of the stopover remains significant and the tourism numbers for Iceland remain incredibly strong and growing.
Can Alitalia’s stopover scheme succeed?
Alitalia does not have the same commercial relations to benefit from stopovers as Icelandair does, but that doesn’t mean the program is necessarily doomed. And with an initial target of 500,000 stopover passengers annually, ultimately tripling to 1.5mm, the carrier clearly sees potential to drive better revenue to its operations with this move.
Of course, with the uncertainty surrounding the future of the airline changes like this may prove akin to Nero’s violin practice (yes, I know that didn’t really happen). The carrier needs real structural changes to survive and thrive and it is unclear that the stopover program will sufficiently move the needle on that front.
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And there I thought Nero was playing a Stradivarius.
Those looking into Alitalia for anything should know about their dirty tricks. I have less than 100,000 miles with Alitalia. They have this crazy system where they will cancel all miles unless you earn more miles in seat on AZ in the next few months. I have been trying to use myCB miles since November but hey keep jacking up prices from trans-atlantic C class at 40,000 Plus fees up to a recent 2 million miles. I believe they are the only program that has awards over 1 million miles that I have ever seen.
The partial reason FI and TP’s stopover programs are so popular is they’re geographically positioned between a typical leisure traveller’s origin (North America) and ultimate destination (somewhere else continental Europe) so it’s appealing to break up your journey and explore someplace new. Rome does not have this advantage unless these travellers are going to eastern Europe or Middle East, and besides Rome is appealing enough as a destination anyways.
I don’t see this working out for AZ.
I’ll argue that a visit to Iceland or Portugal is easily as nice as one to Rome, though I can understand that some feel differently.
Yes, Alitalia wants this to play on its connecting itineraries and it does have a few that draw people through the Rome hub. Probably not enough to hit the 1.5mm per annum target, but at this point every little bit helps, so long as the company isn’t losing out on other multi-city trip revenue.
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