Lufthansa, Germany biggest airline, will name its new airline "Lufthansa Italia," the company announced on Wednesday, and its initial fleet of six Airbus aircraft will take off beginning in February with flights to eight European destinations.
"With Lufthansa Italia we are positioning ourselves in an important market with strong demand that also has the potential for strong growth," Lufthansa head Wolfgang Mayrhuber said. "Milan and the Lombardy region are in one of Europe's economically strongest areas and it's important that is connected to the rest of Europe with a good route network."
Mayrhuber said the airline would combine Lufthansa's reliability and high quality with "Italian flair."
According to a spokesman, despite the new airline Lufthansa is still keeping a close eye on Italy's troubled Alitalia. It has been bought by the CAI consortium of top Italian businessmen who will relaunch it as a smaller, more efficient carrier next month.
CAI is looking for a foreign partner to buy a 20 percent stake in the new Alitalia and Lufthansa is currently vying with Air France-KLM for that position. But even if it loses out, Lufthansa will now be well placed to pressure Alitalia on its home turf.
Lufthansa Italia will begin with flights from Milan to Paris and Barcelona, then will add routes to Brussels, Budapest, Bucharest, Madrid as well as London-Heathrow and Lisbon.