Rome, July 2 - Alitalia and Etihad will be the official airlines of Milan Expo 2015, the Italian carrier's CEO Gabriele Del Torchio announced Wednesday. The two airlines will provide 100 flights a day to and from Milan during Expo, which takes place from May to October next year. United Arab Emirates company Etihad has agreed to buy a 49% stake in the struggling Alitalia and the deal is expected to be completed in the coming months.
Expo's agreement with the airlines will lead to Milan being linked to 866 cities across the globe through 125 direct flights and a further 741 via one-stop connections.
An estimated 20 million visitors are expected to attend Expo 2015, of which approximately 7.6 million will travel to Milan by air, with 1.5 million arriving from intercontinental destinations, 3.3 million from international destinations and 2.8 million from within Italy.
"Expo 2015 will be a remarkable opportunity for Italy," said Del Torchio.
"We could not miss being part of it, and we are very proud that Alitalia and Etihad Airways have been jointly chosen as the official global airline carriers...
"Alitalia and Expo 2015 share the same values and vision - the pursuit of excellence, style and elegance typical of the 'Made in Italy' brand. "We are also committed to showcasing Italy's renowned cuisine, design, fashion and art".
The two companies plan to implement a marketing and communication drive for Expo including communication to loyalty program members, print and digital campaigns, and social media activities.
"We want 20 million people to visit the exhibition site. We expect 8 million coming from abroad. We know that a worldwide operating asset is needed to support us in reaching this goal," said Giuseppe Sala, CEO of Expo 2015 Company.
"The partnership with Alitalia and Etihad Airways is in line with our target. "From now on all the initiatives will have a double value.
"On the one hand they will be useful to promote the event.
On the other hand they will make travelling to Milan and leaving Milan easier. "In this way they will also contribute to give the best welcome to all people visiting Italy taking part in the event".