Giovanni Bisignani has become the first chief executive of the Online Travel Portal, the long delayed pan-European web-based travel agency jointly owned by nine of Europe`s leading airlines.
Mr Bisignani began work at the start of February, joining from Milan-based SM Logistics, which specialises in freight forwarding for the shipping industry.
The 54-year-old Italian was chief executive of Alitalia between 1989 and 1994 during one of the most turbulent episodes in the European aviation industry.
His first task will be to put in place a management team to oversee the transition of the virtual travel agency as it prepares to go live in mid-2001.
Plans for the web-based travel agency were announced last May, with an initial start date set for the end of 2000. The venture mirrors similar initiatives in the US and Asia, as airlines seek to counter the threat of other online travel agents such as Travelocity.com and Expedia.
The Online Travel Portal is jointly owned by nine European airlines - Aer Lingus, Air France, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Finnair, Iberia, KLM and Lufthansa.