Alitalia to join cargo sales joint venture

Alitalia to join cargo sales joint venture

Alitalia Cargo announced Thursday that it plans to join the joint venture formed in 2001 by the cargo units of Air France, Delta Air Lines and Korean Air to coordinate export sales from the United States.

The decision was widely anticipated following the announcement earlier this week by Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines that they plan to merge.

Alitalia, Air France, Delta and Korean Air all belong to the SkyTeam Cargo alliance, along with Aeromexico and CSA Czech Airlines. KLM has applied for membership in SkyTeam.

Alitalia did not indicate when it expects to become a member of the cargo venture. It will not need to seek approval from the Justice Department because it already has antitrust immunity that would allow it to join the venture, according to Alexander Moeller, the carrier's marketing manager for cargo in the Americas. Moeller said Alitalia has several working groups focused on issues that need to be resolved before it joins the joint venture.

Alitalia said the joint venture offers customers the benefits of a combined sales force, centralized reservation and service center, a comprehensive route network and a common product line.

"The combined freighter capabilities of Alitalia, Air France and Korean Air, along with the extensive lower deck lift provided by Delta Air Lines, gives this cargo joint venture a wide range of strategic options as well as marketing abilities," said Massimo Panagia, managing director of Alitalia Cargo.

The other members of the joint venture had been seeking to convince Alitalia to join for more than a year, but Panagia hesitated, fearing that it might disrupt special relationships it had with customers in the U.S., such as Italian-speaking forwarders.

KLM is also expected to apply for membership in the joint venture, but that will probably not take place until after the merger with Air France is completed.