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Tue, Aug 28, 2007

Vatican Launches Low-Cost Catholic Airline

Charter Anticipates Serving 150,000 Pilgrims a Year

The Vatican launched a low-cost charter flight service Monday, intended to transport Catholic pilgrims to holy sites all over the world.

Assisted by a chartered Boeing 737, operated by Italy's Mistral Air (shown above), the service plans to serve upwards around 150,000 pilgrims a year. The inaugural flight went form Fiumicino Airport in Rome to the Lourdes in France, according to Reuters.

"It is a spiritual journey," explained Francesco Gherra, one of the passengers on the inaugural flight.

The message of each flight is made clear with Vatican logos on flight attendant uniforms and seats. The slogan of the first flight was, "I'm Searching for Your Face, Lord."

In-flight entertainment will, of course, be religious in nature.

"The crew has been informed that there are (religious) messages that will be transmitted, that films will be shown during the flight," said Father Cesar Atuire at the Vatican office coordinating pilgrimages.

There will also be members of the cabin crew who will be "specialized in the voyages of a sacred nature," according Italy's Ansa news agency.

Destinations will include Fatima in Portugal and Santiago di Compostela in Spain, the Holy Land, Poland, a Catholic shrine in Mexico, and Mount Sinai in Egypt... where Scripture says God presented Moses with the 10 Commandments.

While the Vatican says the purpose of the airline is to keep costs low for Catholics wishing to travel to Holy sites, other airlines have taken note of the newest competitor... and have adjusted their own marketing accordingly.

"Ryanair already performs miracles that even the Pope's boss can't rival, by delivering pilgrims to Santiago de Compostela for the heavenly price of 10 euros," Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair said this week.

Sacrilege... or savvy marketing? Stay tuned.

FMI: www.adr.it, www.mistralair.it, www.vatican.va

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