Alitalia forecasts 2018 sales rise, helped by new routes

ROME, Feb 5 (Reuters) - Alitalia’s revenues rose by 1 percent in 2017, following six years of falling sales and the insolvent Italian airline aims to do better this year, its Chief Commercial Officer Fabio Maria Lazzerini said on Monday.

Alitalia, which has made a profit only a few times in its 70-year history, was put under special administration last year after staff rejected a plan to cut jobs and salaries.

The Italian government is now looking for a buyer for the national carrier, hoping to strike a deal before national elections due March 4.

For 2018, Alitalia expects a “considerable” increase in sales and passengers, Lazzerini said during a conference in Rome, according to comments confirmed by a spokesman.

Alitalia’s December sales grew by around 3 percent. It expects sales to rise between 4-5 percent in the first quarter, helped by new routes and plans to fill more seats, with the load factor seen growing between 6 and 7 percent.

Germany’s Lufthansa, British low-cost carrier easyJet and U.S. private equity fund Cerberus are among those that have expressed an interest in buying Alitalia, which controls valuable take-off and landing slots in the world’s fifth-largest tourist destination. (Reporting by Alberto Sisto; writing by Francesca Piscioneri; editing by Alexander Smith)