Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates (UAE), commenced a daily non-stop service between Abu Dhabi and Rome Fiumicino Airport yesterday morning.
A senior delegation from the airline travelled on theflight including Senior Vice President Executive Affairs, Hasan Al Hammadi and Senior Vice President Government and Aeropolitical Affairs, Khaled Al Mehairbi.
Guests onboard the inaugural flight were presented with special commemorative certificates to mark the occasion, while a ribbon-cutting ceremony also took place at Rome airport, hosted by Aeroporti di Roma (ADR) Aviation Marketing Development Director, DrFausto Palombelli.
Celebrations in Rome will continue with a gala reception attended by over300dignitaries, government officials, travel agents, tourism representatives and executives from Etihad Airways' partner airlines.
Etihad Airways' daily service to Rome is operated using Airbus A330-200 aircraft in a two-class configuration, featuring 22 fully-flat beds in Business Class and 240 seats in Economy Class.
President and Chief Executive Officer, James Hogan, said: "Italy is a very important market for Etihad Airways and we are delighted to establish a second gateway here, after Milan Malpensa.
"By starting services to Rome, we have strengthened our commitment to Italy and reinforced the close economic and political relationship it shares with the UAE, which is Italy's leading trade partner in the Middle East and North Africa region.
"Demand from business and leisure travellers has been incredibly strong on this new route, strengthened by the convenient onward connections we offer in both directions, either with Etihad Airways' own flights or through our extensive network of codeshare and alliance partners."
Lorenzo Lo Presti, Aeroporti di Roma Chief Executive Officer, said: "We are honoured to welcome Etihad Airways to Rome, where the airline's new daily direct flight to Abu Dhabi represents another major milestone for growing passenger and cargo traffic to and from Italy's main airport.
"We have always been particularly attentive to emerging markets, and the Middle East is an area which continues to enhance the range of direct flights on offer. We are certain this new connection between our hub and the UAE capital will increase the flow of business and tourism traffic in both directions.
"Looking ahead, our strategically situated Leonardo da Vinci Rome Fiumicino airport stands ready to play its part welcoming more visitors to Italy, and providing easy onward connections to the rest of the Mediterranean area."
The schedule of Etihad Airways' Rome-Abu Dhabi flights offers convenient links to destinations across the Gulf region, Indian subcontinent, Africa, Asia and Australia. In the opposite direction, Abu Dhabi-Rome flights connect to European cities such as Belgrade, Bolzano, Tirana and Zagreb through flights operated by the airline's equity partners Air Serbia and Etihad Regional.
In addition, Etihad Airways codeshares on Italian national carrier Alitalia's services between Abu Dhabi and Rome, and beyond to a wide range of Italian domestic and European cities, including Milan, Bucharest, Sofia, Vienna, Venice, Madrid, Malaga, Budapest, Malta and Barcelona.
Earlier this month Alitalia and Etihad Airways were named as Official Global Airline Carriers for Expo 2015, the upcoming Universal Exposition which will be held in Milan from 1 May to 31 October 2015.