NEW YORK -- As Italy gears up to receive hordes of visitors leading
up to the year 2000 -- a Jubilee year, as declared by the pope --
Alitalia is readying for the onslaught by expanding service into
Milan, according to Paolo Rubino, Alitalia's new senior vice
president and area manager for North America and Mexico.
The opening of a new international terminal at Milan's Malpensa
Airport is intended to shift some service from Rome -- expected to
be inundated for Jubilee -- to Milan.
Alitalia hopes the airport will serve as a hub for U.S.
travelers visiting not only Italy but other international
destinations, Rubino said. "We are maintaining our Rome
connections, but we have increased capacity to Milan since October,
moving from seven to 14 frequencies per week from some gateways in
the winter season," he said. "Malpensa is a powerful tool, not only
for Milan as a final destination but as a way to offer more
connections to Europe, the Middle East and Africa."
He acknowledged that increased service to Rome during the
Jubilee year will probably be necessary, particularly for leisure
Rubino downplayed the much-publicized snafus that occurred
during the first week that the new Malpensa terminal was in use in
late October, which resulted in dozens of cancellations and delays
as well as lost luggage. "Whenever you open a new facility, you
meet with difficulties, but we were able to solve many of these in
the first week," he said. "We sent 300 colleagues through Malpensa
to help handle customer problems, and we are working double-time to
show our commitment for the success of this airport," Rubino
He also dismissed as "unrealistic" complaints that the airport
is situated inconveniently, far from downtown Milan, especially in
relation to Linate, the city's domestic airport. "A major issue
[at] Malpensa is the time it takes to connect with Milan's city
center, but nowadays a big airport cannot be right in a city for
environmental reasons," Rubino said.
"After three weeks of testing, we confirmed that the average
time to reach the airport from Milan is not more than 45 minutes,
which is reasonable and competitive," he said.
Plane-to-train connections, which already exist but which will
feature faster connections as of June, will help alleviate airport
connection problems, Rubino added.