After the final flight of long-struggling Italian airline Alitalia on Thursday, Italy’s new national carrier Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) began operations on Friday.
The inaugural ITA flight took off from Milan’s Linate airport at 6:13 am (0413 GMT) for Bari, in southern Italy, the first of some 191 flights scheduled for the airline’s first day.
ITA is effectively Alitalia’s successor and is to use its aircraft and staff, though both the Italian government and the European Union’s executive are hoping it will make a clean break with Alitalia’s troubled financial past.
Alitalia had not made an annual profit since 2002 and multiple turnaround attempts failed, including efforts to find private buyers that involved talks with Delta and Lufthansa.
The airline was privatized in 2008, but still required massive state aid after that. In 2017 it went bankrupt and was put in the hands of administrators.
Two subsequent state loans ran afoul of EU state aid rules, which aim to ensure a level playing field in the continent’s aviation sector, however.
In 2020, coronavirus-related air travel restrictions brought the airline to its knees again. A bailout kept Alitalia flying, but also paved the way for its re-nationalization as ITA.
ITA begins operations with 52 aircraft and 2,950 employees – a massive reduction from Alitalia’s staff of some 10,000.
Many fear the new airline will run into the same problems as its predecessor, however, and will immediately face stiff competition from the low-cost carriers that now dominate Italian and European markets.
The transport union Cub Trasporti plans to gather at Rome’s Fiumicino airport on Friday for a demonstration, union secretary Antonio Amoroso told the press, adding that the new airline had no prospects and that the union expected ITA to experience heavy financial losses in the next two years.