NEW YORK -- Alitalia will launch flights between Washington and Rome this spring, the carrier's first direct route between the two capitals.

The five-times weekly flight between Rome Fiumicino and Washington Dulles commences May 2. The eastbound leg, departing at 4:15 p.m. and arriving at 7:00 a.m. Rome time, is designed to allow passenger connections via Alitalia's network throughout Europe, North Africa and the Middle East.

Alitalia last flew out of Washington 13 years ago when it offered direct flights to Milan's Malpensa airport.

Speaking in New York today, Alitalia chief business officer Fabio Maria Lazzerini said the Washington-Rome connection offers a good mix of corporate, leisure and humanitarian organization traffic.

Lazzerini said the airline, which is undergoing a restructuring and operating via a $900 million bridge loan from the Italian government until it finds an investor, increased its passenger revenue this year for the first time since at least 2012.

"From 2012 to 2017, we had been constantly losing revenue, with few exceptions," he said. "This year, with less capacity and aircraft, passenger revenue is up 7%. In November alone, it was up 8.3%."

Lazzerini said that while the carrier will still lose money this year, it has improved its operating margin by 80% by increasing revenue and reducing costs, which it has achieved by renegotiating contracts and finding efficiencies. He said he hopes that the bid to acquire Alitalia, a process going on now, will bring another airline in as a partner. Italy's rail company Ferrovie dello Stato, which last month offered to purchase Alitalia if it secured another partner, is trying to form a partnership that will include Delta and EasyJet. 

"Being a standalone company in the airline industry in 2019 is not an easy place to be," Lazzerini said.

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