Lufthansa had been asked to take a stake in Italy's bankrupt carrier Alitalia, but the German airline decided to launch a new subsidiary that will fly from two Italian cities to several European destinations instead.
Lufthansa Italia flies from Milan and Lombardy to European cities starting February
German airline Lufthansa said Wednesday it is launching a new subsidiary in Italy called Lufthansa Italia.
With an initial fleet of six Airbus A319 aircraft, Lufthansa Italia will offer flights from Milan's Malpensa airport to major European destinations starting February 2009.
"Lufthansa Italia will position us in an important market characterized by strong demand, which also holds out opportunities for buoyant growth in the future," said Lufthansa chief executive Wolfgang Mayrhuber.
"Milan and Lombardy rank among Europe's economically most important and strongest regions," he added. "A good network connecting them with Europe's principal cities is essential."
Lufthansa Italia, which will be founded under Italian company law, "blends traditional Lufthansa values, notably reliability and high quality, with Italian flair," the German carrier said.
Lufthansa, which has been approached to take a stake in Italy's bankrupt national carrier Alitalia, already owns an Italian subsidiary called Air Dolomiti.
"Lufthansa Italia and Air Dolomiti will work alongside each other as 100-percent Lufthansa subsidiaries in the future," said a spokeswoman, who did not rule out Lufthansa taking a stake in a re-launched Alitalia, following the government's decision to sell the airline to Cai, an Italian business consortium.
Cai is looking for a foreign partner, either Lufthansa or Air France-KLM, to take a 20-percent share in Alitalia.
"We are monitoring the situation concerning Alitalia very closely," the Lufthansa spokeswoman said.
Lufthansa Italia will start flights to the first two destinations Barcelona and Paris (Charles de Gaulle) from Feb. 2. Flights to Brussels, Budapest, Bucharest and Madrid will be added four weeks later.
London (Heathrow) and Lisbon will be brought into the network with the start of the 2009 summer flight schedules at the end of March, the airline said.