Air Transport World

'Positive' blue.

Rapidly growing Alitalia franchisee Azzurra Air is an example of the EU's aviation liberalization at its best

BERGAMO, Italy--Flying British airliners registered in Ireland from its base here in northern Italy and with strong connections with Malta, Azzurra Air is a classic example of the new generation of cross-border carriers springing up since EU aviation liberalization.

Azzurra--the word has blue sea and sky connotations for Italians--flew its first service two years ago this month but has made an impressive takeoff on the coattails of Alitalia. Now a franchisee of the Italian state carrier's Alitalia Express arm, Azzurra's management expects to see the first-year passenger carryings of 73,000 climb to around 170,000--152,000 scheduled, 17,000 charter--in 1998.

MD and CEO Dominic Attard, with 29 years' experience in the civil-aviation business, recalls with wry humor how he arrived at Bergamo, seconded from Air Malta, to set up the new carrier. "I had nothing but a traveling case--no office, just zero. We obtained a license in the record time of six months that considering the bureaucracy in Italy, is remarkable. Starting from nothing was not easy. We went through a lot of pain in that first year but now, we can see the light at the end of the tunnel.

"In the first year of operating new aircraft, our cost structure was expensive, but we said we would do it the right way or we wouldn't do it at all. …

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