Alitalia grounded as ITA takes to the skies

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Alitalia’s final flight took off this afternoon, from Rome to Cagliari. So ends nearly 75 years of history as Italy’s flag carrier. On Friday, ITA will take the place of Alitalia.

The final flight, from Rome to Cagliari, brings to an end a colourful 74-year history between Italy and the troubled flag carrier. Many of Alitalia’s employees will not be rehired by ITA.

Alitalia’s history in brief

On 16 September 1946, Alitalia began life as Aerolinee Italiane Internazionali, funded by the Italian government and British European Airways (BEA). The inaugural flight on 5th May 1947 went from Turin to Catania and Rome.

Alitalia launched its first flight intercontinental flights in 1948, between Milan and South America. Its name was a combination of the Italian words for wings and Italy (“ali” and “Italia”).

Nine years later, in 1957, Alitalia merged with Linee Aeree Italiane and took on the name of Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane. By 1960, it was carrying one million passengers. It also became the first European airline to move fully into the jet era.

From its initial 10,000 passengers in 1947, Alitalia was carrying 25 million passengers annually by the 1990s.

Profitability always an issue

The state-owned airline struggled with profitability but the government always bailed it out. That was until 2006, when the EU stepped in and called an end to the practice.

Despite that, Alitalia continued to receive bailouts from the Italian government in the form of emergency loans. All this was in violation of EU rules, however the final straw was the coronavirus pandemic and resulting lockdowns.

The last tickets were sold on 25 August 2021.

ITA – a phoenix from the ashes

ITA will take to the skies on 15th October, essentially a rebirth of Alitalia. Fully owned by the Italian government, it will start with a fleet of 52 planes. The plan is for the number of aircraft to rise to 105 by the end of 2025.

Some of Alitalia’s slots were sold off. ITA inherits 85% at Milan’s Linate airport and 43% of Alitalia’s slots at Fiumicino in Rome.

Staff and destinations reduced

Of the 11,000 Alitalia employees, 2,800 will be employed in ITA’s aviation unit this year.This could rise to 5,750 in 2025 if the company wins the tender for Alitalia’s ground handling and maintenance divisions.

Initially, there are 44 destinations served by ITA. The number is set to rise to 74 by 2025.

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