U.S. Airlines Say Arrivederci to New York-Rome Service

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) - -- Maybe Rome is still the eternal city and maybe the movie "To Rome With Love" is packing them in and maybe lovers still enjoy trudging up the city's Spanish Steps.

But this winter, it will be a lot tougher to get from New York to Rome than it has been in decades.

That's because all three of the big U.S. international airlines plan to suspend non-stop service between New York/Newark and Rome this winter, with the flights to resume in the spring. The only non-stop service between New York and Rome is to be on Italian carrier Alitalia.

There are "no sacred cows as US airlines adjust schedules to the match the macro backdrop" of declining traffic to Europe, wrote Deutsche Bank analyst Mike Linenberg, in a recent note. "(It's) another example of an industry that is focused on margin rather than market share."

The decline in Europe's economy is no secret. As one more example, bankrupt AMR Corp. ( AAMRQ.PK), the parent company of American Airlines, reported Monday that it has reduced its trans-Atlantic capacity by 7.3% year-to-date through June 30. Over the past three years, U.S. carriers have been cutting capacity across the board, with most making double digit percentage cuts in trans-Atlantic service.

How will U.S. airlines get their passengers to Rome this winter?

At American, passengers can "fly to London Heathrow or Madrid, then connect to Rome on one of our joint-business partners," said spokesman Jim Faulkner. At United ( UAL), Rome passengers can connect through Washington Dulles, said spokesman Rahsaan Johnson. US Airways ( LCC) plans to continue to operate Philadelphia-Rome through the winter, although it is suspending Charlotte-Rome seasonal service, said spokeswoman Michelle Mohr.

As for Delta ( DAL), it will in fact still provide service to Rome, but in another sign of the new realities of the airline business, the flights will be flown by its Skyteam partner AliItalia.

"Alitalia will continue to operate two daily JFK-Rome flights this winter, so Delta customers can still book on those flights as usual," said Delta spokesman Trebor Bannister. "Delta shares the revenues/costs with Alitalia and coordinates on scheduling, marketing, etc." The only difference, in airline terms, is that "the metal" is Alitalia's.

Linenberg noted, however, that even Alitalia plans to reduce its capacity on the route, with its fourth quarter available seat miles down 9% and its December available seat miles down 18%. Overall, industry capacity between New York/Newark and Rome will be down 10% in the fourth quarter and down 27% in December, Linenberg said.

-- Written by Ted Reed in Charlotte, N.C.

>To contact the writer of this article, click here: Ted Reed

>To follow the writer on Twitter, go to http://twitter.com/tedreednc.

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