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Detroit gains new, non-stop flights to Rome, Italy

eTN  Dec 16, 2008

Delta Air Lines has announced it will launch non-stop flights between Detroit Metro Airport and Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino Airport in Rome, Italy, staring June 4. The daily flight will be operated by Delta's Northwest Airlines subsidiary using a 298-seat Airbus A330-300.

The Italian capital will become Detroit Metro's sixth transatlantic destination, along with Amman, London-Heathrow, Paris, Amsterdam and Frankfurt. The new service will follow Delta's highly-anticipated launch of non-stop service from Detroit to Shanghai, China, in March.

"The addition of non-stop service to Rome to Detroit Metro's already impressive list of Asian, European and Middle Eastern destinations confirms to us that Detroit will be a vital component of the new Delta network," said Wayne County Airport Authority CEO Lester Robinson. "The Airport Authority is working hard to ensure that our region's airports remain the bright spots amid all the news of a dreary regional economy."

The Airport Authority previously estimated that new flights to Shanghai, China, will stimulate approximately $95 million annually for the Michigan economy. It expects the new Rome service to generate a similarly-sizeable impact.

Following its merger with Northwest Airlines in October, Delta Air Lines and its subsidiaries are the dominant airline at Detroit Metro, where Delta operates its second-largest hub and primary Asian gateway.

Prior to the start of Delta's new Rome and Shanghai flights, Italy and China rank as the second and third largest markets without non-stop flights from Detroit, respectively. According to data provided by Sabre Airline Solutions, nearly 60,000 passengers travel between Detroit and Italy each year. (The largest unserved country remains India -- a fact not lost on WCAA's Air Service Development team.)

"The Airport Authority has been working closely with our airline partners for some time to demonstrate the potential for non-stop service to Italy," said Jack Vogel, VP of Business Development for the WCAA. "We also passed along thousands of messages and recruited petition signatures from interested residents in both Detroit and Windsor, Ontario. We believe the combination of that much community interest is very powerful."

The slowing economy has brought some changes in Detroit's air service over the last few months, but has fared well compared to many other airports. Since last summer Detroit's airlines have signaled plans to operate 3.2% fewer departures at Metro Airport, compared to an average reduction among the country's 300 largest airports of 8.9% according to industry schedules provided by APGDAT.

Among the 12 largest U.S. hub airports, Detroit ranks second in fewest flights lost during airlines' recent cutbacks.

"While we don't like to lose any flights, it is great consolation to know that Detroit is weathering the storm better than most other airports -- gaining new, long-sought destinations along the way," said Vogel.

Detroit gains new, non-stop flights to Rome, Italy
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