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Italy’s flagship airline, Alitalia, announced the impending launch of regular flights to Armenia on Friday, saying that they will “strengthen its positions” in the South Caucasus.

Giovanni Simonini, a senior Alitalia executive, said the company will fly from Rome to Yerevan twice a week starting from December 11. Speaking at a news conference, Simonini said the recently privatized carrier will offer “very competitive prices” to attract many travelers.

Direct flights between the Armenian and Italian capitals have until now been carried out only by Armenia’s Armavia airline.

In what it called an unprecedented promotional campaign, a separate Alitalia statement said the prices of Yerevan-Rome tickets will start from 299 euros ($380). This is less than that the airfares currently charged by other European airlines flying to the South Caucasus state.

Italy’s ambassador to Armenia, Bruno Scapini, welcomed the Alitalia move, saying that it will boost tourism between the two countries. Scapini said Italians already account for the largest share of European tourists visiting Armenia.

The announcement came one month after Britain’s BMI airline, a subsidiary of British Airways, ended more than decade-long flights from London to Yerevan, citing their low profitability. Some Armenian travel agent suggested that the allegedly high cost of ground services at Yerevan’s Zvartnots airport, was another factor behind that decision.
Armavia has long accused Zvartnots’s Argentine operator of setting disproportionately high service fees.

According to Simonini, Alitalia is “more than happy” with tariffs set in its newly signed contract with the airport administration.
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