“So many cameras…but which one to look at”. As can be seen in this photo, the photographers were out in force to capture the ‘dream team’ of: Diego Giannone, Route Manager Domestic & Feeding Hub, Aeroporti di Roma; Federico Scriboni, Route Development Manager Europe, Aeroporti di Roma; Raffaele Pasquini, Head of Airport Marketing Development, Aeroporti di Roma; Guo Jianye, Director General, Commercial Steering Committee, China Southern Airlines; Jonathan Ford, Assistant Editor, anna.aero; and Fausto Palombelli, EVP, Aviation Marketing Department, Aeroporti di Roma. On 17 December, China Southern Airlines launched services on its Guangzhou-Wuhan-Rome Fiumicino route using its 787-8s.
On 17 December, China Southern Airlines commenced services to Rome Fiumicino in Italy, by launching its Guangzhou-Wuhan-Rome route. A few weeks previous to the launch, anna.aero’s Assistant Editor, Jonathan Ford, was invited by Aeroporti di Roma’s (AdR) Head of Airport Marketing Development, Raffaele Pasquini, to help welcome the arrival of the inaugural flight from China. Of course anna.aero was very happy to be invited to such an important route launch and very kindly took up the invitation.
In order for Ford to get to Rome, he would have to fly in from Istanbul, as two days previous to the China Southern event, he attended the launch of Emirates’ inaugural flight from Dubai to its second Istanbul destination, Sabiha Gökçen .
Rome Fiumicino becomes European destination number seven for China Southern Airlines, following Amsterdam, Frankfurt, Istanbul Atatürk, London Heathrow, Moscow Sheremetyevo, Paris CDG and St Petersburg, with services to the latter commencing on 16 July last year with the SkyTeam member connecting the Russian city to Lanzhou via Urumqi.
Flights on the Guangzhou-Wuhan-Rome service will operate thrice-weekly utilising the carrier’s 787-8s with a three-class configuration made up of four first class seats, 20 in business class and 200 in economy. Flights on the outbound journey, CZ645, leave Guangzhou at 21:30 every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, arriving in Wuhan at 23:25. The second sector of the journey then departs the SkyTeam member’s fifth largest airport (based on monthly departing seat capacity in W15/16 according to OAG Schedules Analyser) at 00:45 the next morning, arriving in the Italian capital at 06:15. The return flight, CZ646, leaves Rome Fiumicino at 12:35, arriving in Wuhan at 06:25 the following day. After a stopover of one and a half hours in the capital of the Hubei province, the fourth sector then departs for Guangzhou, landing back at China Southern Airlines’ largest base at 09:45.
One of the main focuses of the press conference was to highlight the development of the ‘Canton Route Strategy’. The strategy is designed to promote Guangzhou as an international aviation hub and to highlight its growth as being one of the most important transport hubs in Asia. The hub is highlighted by China Southern as being the ‘first gateway between mainland China and Australasia and South Asia.’
Welcome to Rome China Southern Airlines. To mark the occasion of China Southern Airlines’ arrival to Rome, the airport held a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony. Helping with proceedings are: Guo Jianye, Director General, Commercial Steering Committee, China Southern Airlines (third from left); Fausto Palombelli, EVP, Aviation Marketing Development (third from right); and Raffaele Pasquini, Head of Airport Marketing Development at Aeroporti di Roma (far right). Also posing with the ribbon before cutting are delegates from China Southern Airlines.
As well as the ribbon cutting, a gift exchange also took place at the airport with Jianye presenting Palombelli with a scale model China Southern Airlines 787-8, the aircraft type which will operate the Guangzhou-Wuhan-Rome route, As well as this, Jianye gave a speech saying: “It is a great honour to open services to Rome, the airline has always highly-valued the European market and it is fantastic that we can now add Italy to our network.”
While the speech of Jianye was taking place, the aircraft was being prepped ready for its departure back to Wuhan and Guangzhou. Services to Rome arrive at 06:15 in the morning with a departure time of 12:35, meaning that the aircraft stays on the ground at Rome Fiumicino for over six hours.
After the small launch ceremony had taken place at the airport, it was then time for an evening event which was held at the Westin Excelsior Rome in the centre of Rome. On arrival, delegates were welcomed to a complimentary bar and a buffet of selected oriental nibbles. Amongst the backdrop of the room was a series of banners promoting the new route as well as one of the key strategies of China Southern Airlines which is to promote Guangzhou as a global hub.
Once the initial mingling and greeting had taken place at the welcome reception, it was then time to head into the press conference room for a formal dinner with speakers.
First to speak at the press conference was Guoxiang Wu, SVP Marketing Division, China Southern Airlines. Within his speech, he welcomed all of the delegates to the press conference and briefly touched on how he had received such a warm welcome in Rome. He then went on to highlight the importance of Guangzhou and also to introduce a promotional video of Wuhan, highlighting its growing importance as a global destination within China.
During the evening, delegates watched a video promoting China Southern Airlines’ inflight product as well as the city of Wuhan, which is the capital of the Hubei Province. As of 2013, the city has had a population of over 10 million people, with the city’s airport welcoming over 17.2 million passengers in 2014 according to the CAAC (Civil Aviation Authority of China). Rome Fiumicino becomes the third destination in Europe to be served from Wuhan, with Air France also operating to the city from its Paris CDG hub, while China Southern Airlines itself operates services to Moscow Sheremetyevo.
Next to the podium after the promotional video was Guo Jianye, Director General, Commercial Steering Committee, China Southern Airlines. Speaking at the press conference, Jianye said: “China Southern already has a significant presence in Europe, and this new service to Rome will help meet demand for both business and leisure travellers heading for Italy. The launch of Rome, together with the recently announced introduction of flights to Christchurch, highlights our Canton Route Strategy, as we continue to boost Guangzhou’s standing as an international aviation hub.” He also added: “The airline has always highly-valued the European market, and we are already operating many flights between China and several European cities. We have always paid attention to the Italian market as well, since China and Italy share historic relationships and bilateral ties have steadily risen in the last few years in relation to tourism, economy, and trade links. So it now makes sense for this route to become a reality.”
Next to speak after Jianye was Li Ruiyu, the Chinese Ambassador to Italy. As part of his speech, he commented that: “The opening of this new route proves that economic cooperation and bilateral ties between China and Italy have been relentlessly on the rise, in terms of size and importance.”
After the speeches and dinner had taken place, it was then time for China Southern Airlines and Aeroporti di Roma to sign and exchange contracts, with a hand shake following after to signify that business between the two companies had been completed. After this signature, it was then time for China Southern Airlines to sign an agreement with Alitalia to confirm the codeshare between the two airlines on the service Rome-Wuhan-Guangzhou.
Codeshare agreement signed. Alitalia will place its “AZ” code on the new China Southern service and to seven more flights beyond Wuhan including to the political capital Beijing, the economic capital Shanghai, as well as Guangzhou, Shenyang, Qingdao, Chengdu and Wenzhou. China Southern’s “CZ” flight code will be placed on a range of flights operated by Alitalia in Italy and Europe. The codeshare deal will provide travellers from Italy with further opportunities to reach some of China’s biggest business cities and for Chinese tourists to visit major Italian cities.
The second gift exchange of the day. After the contracts between Alitalia, China Southern and Aeroporti di Roma had been signed, it was then time for the gift exchange between the various parties. China Southern presented both companies with 787-8 models, while Aeroporti di Roma presented the airline with a history book all about its latest European destination, while Alitalia presented Asia’s largest airline with a model of its own branded A330-200 in a special EXPO 2015 livery, an event which took place in Milan last year.
After the contracts had been signed and the gifts exchanged, it was then time to toast the celebration with Jianye leading the celebrations.
Cheers to a successful route China Southern. anna.aero’s Jonathan Ford, toasts with Guoxiang Wu, SVP Marketing Division, China Southern Airlines, to the launch of the carrier’s new service to Rome and wishes the airline the best of luck with their new venture to the Italian capital.
After the gift exchange and celebrations had taken place, it was then time for the Aeroporti di Roma’s Aviation Marketing Department to revel in the success of gaining China Southern Airlines by celebrating alongside a model of their latest airline conquest with Jianye (third from right) also taking part. Jianye also managed to capture a moment during his busy evening to catch a moment with anna.aero’s Jonathan Ford.
What a duo. anna.aero’s Jonathan Ford would like to thank Aeroporti di Roma for inviting him to welcome the arrival of China Southern Airlines to Rome, and especially extend his gratitude to Raffaele Pasquini, Head of Airport Marketing Development, Aeroporti di Roma, for being such a great host to Ford during his stay in the Italian capital. Speaking to Ford after the event, Pasquini highlighted that Rome was now one of the best connected airports in Europe to China and that it now has more direct flights to Chinese destinations with Chinese carriers than any other airport in Europe. China is a very important market from Rome, and its success story continues as Pasquini also told anna.aero that due to its successful inauguration, Hainan Airlines is increasing its Xi’an service from twice- to thrice-weekly in time for S16, a route which commenced operations in November.
Just to confirm that Ford was indeed in Rome, he managed to get a couple of moments to go out and see the wonderful city while on his brief stopover, including the Vatican. Rome is the third most visited city in the EU, after London and Paris, and on average sees between seven and 10 million tourists a year visit the city. The Colosseum and the Vatican Museums are amongst the most visited tourist attractions in the world.