Italy’s new national airline ITA takes to the skies, marking end of Alitalia

Italia Trasporto Aereo uses predecessor’s brand and colours but drops the name

Former employees of Alitalia protest at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Fiumicino, near Rome Photograph: EPA/Telenews

Former employees of Alitalia protest at Leonardo da Vinci airport in Fiumicino, near Rome Photograph: EPA/Telenews

 

Italy’s new national airline took to the skies for the first time on Friday morning, putting an end to the 75-year-old bankrupt Alitalia.

An early morning flight that touched down in the southern city of Bari signalled the handover from Alitalia to Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) after years of financial troubles and attempted rescues that cost the Italian government billions.

ITA took over the Alitalia brand – and the right to use its green, white and red livery – for just €90 million, far less than the original €290 million asking price. The name Alitalia, however, is to be abandoned.

Under a deal with the European Commission, ITA will be economically independent and will not be liable for any illegal state aid received by Alitalia in recent years.

Profitable

The new carrier will also have to be profitable by the end of its 2021-25 business plan and, according to chair Alfredo Altavilla, will be on the hunt for a deal with a larger airline before the end of 2022 because it is too small to stand alone.

“ITA will start holding talks to reach a deal [with another player] from next week, aiming to complete it by 2022,” said Altavilla on Friday.

Earlier this month US airline Delta’s chief executive Ed Bastian said he was in discussions with ITA about possible joint ventures.

As part of the agreement between Italy and Brussels to allow the new company to operate, state-owned ITA will start with 52 jets and 2,800 employees, compared with the 110 aircraft and about 10,000 employees of Alitalia.

ITA will initially serve 44 destinations, set to rise to 75 by 2025. In addition to European central airport hubs such as London Heathrow and Paris Charles De Gaulle, the carrier will also serve a dozen Italian cities. The airline has also begun selling tickets for transatlantic destinations in the US.

The old Alitalia, which at one time carried popes, actresses and prime ministers, made its last journey on Thursday night, with a flight from the airport of Rome Fiumicino to Cagliari in Sardinia.

Demise

Its demise has been met with fierce union protests over job cuts and anger from opposition politicians.

Alitalia has faced financial difficulties for decades and has not posted an annual net profit since the start of the millennium.

After attempts to find a private buyer failed, Rome took full control of the airline during the coronavirus pandemic, when aviation was hit by strict curbs on travel to control the spread of the virus. It then decided to create ITA from its ashes.

Some of Alitalia’s former employees have been taken on by the new national airline. The wages of 7,000 workers who have not found jobs at ITA will be paid by the state until at least 2022. – Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2021