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Takeoff of Lufthansa Italia planned for early 2009

German's leading airline, Lufthansa, has announced it will launch an Italian subsidiary, Lufthansa Italia, which will offer flights from Milan Malpensa airport to several European cities from February 2009.

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Leading German airline Lufthansa said Wednesday it would create an Italian subsidiary to serve major European cities starting in February.

Lufthansa Italia was designed to blend "traditional Lufthansa values, notably reliability and high quality, with Italian flair," a statement said.

With an initial fleet of six Airbus A319 single-aisle jets, the carrier will offer flights from northern Milan to Barcelona and Paris in early February, followed a month later by services to Brussels, Madrid, Bucharest and Budapest.

London and Lisbon are to join the list in late March.

"We will be offering our Italian customers an extensive route network from northern Italy to attractive destinations in Europe," the statement quoted Lufthansa chairman Wolfgang Mayrhuber as saying.

"Milan and Lombardy rank among Europe’s economically most important and strongest regions. A good route network connecting them with Europe’s principal cities is essential," he added in reference to the region around Milan.

Flights are "already available for booking from 99 euros (128 dollars)," the statement said.

The German airline is also a leading candidate, with Air France-KLM, to buy a major stake in the debt-ridden Italian flag carrier Alitalia.

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