Alitalia ends 74 year history; ITA spreads its wings

Alitalia concluded its final flight yesterday, ending its 74 year history, as Italy's new slimmer national airline, ITA, begins operations.

Alitalia's final flight, from Rome to Cagliari, on Thursday signaled the end of the road for the airline after years of financial losses and failed rescue attempts.

The company has been in the red for more than a decade, forcing the Italian government to its rescue many times and spend more than 8 billion euros in the last few years in doing so.

The coronavirus pandemic proved to be a fatal blow to the company.

Founded in 1946 as Aerolinee Italiane Internazionali, but known popularly as Alitalia , Italy’s former national airline flourished in Europe’s post-war boom.

The company continued to grow in the 70’s, expanding its range of aircraft, and was the first European airline to have a fleet made up entirely of jet planes.

But the end of the decade brought a troubled period of trade union strikes, and as Italy’s economy entered a period of decline in the 90’s, so did Alitalia’s fortunes.

Out of Alitalia's estimated 10,000 employees, only a quarter will be hired by ITA, with the rest being put under a temporary lay-off scheme paid for by the government until at least the end of 2022.

ITA takes off

Early on Friday, ITA took off on its first flight from Milan and landed in the southern city of Bari to mark the debut of the new, downsized carrier that flies with the same green-white-red livery of its predecessor.

ITA will be fully owned by the Italian government and will start off with a fleet of 52 planes, with the number of aircraft rising to 105 by the end of 2025

Under a deal negotiated with the European Commission, there must be clear discontinuity between Alitalia and its successor, and the new carrier needs to be profitable by the end of its 2021-2025 business plan.

The deal to create ITA also calls for a lower number of airport slots, especially at Rome’s main Leonardo da Vinci airport. Milan’s Linate Airport will also see some slots reduced.

Among its routes, ITA plans to operate flights to New York from Milan and Rome, and to Tokyo, Boston and Miami from Rome. Destinations from Rome and Milan’s Linate airport will also include Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt and Geneva.