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February 2022, Virtual
Former Italian flag carrier Alitalia is set to take its
final flight today after 74 years in operation, with new national airline
Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) launching services on 15 October.
Alitalia announced in August that it would cease operations
on 14 October, with passengers booked after this date told they could either switch to an earlier departure or receive a full refund for their ticket. The airline had been in financial difficulties since filing for
bankruptcy in 2017, with the Italian government propping it up to continue
operations with a view to selling the company. Bidders included Delta and
easyJet working in collaboration as well as Lufthansa, but the government could
not find suitable offers and renationalised the carrier at the start of the
Covid-19 pandemic in 2020 at a time when virtually all flights were grounded.
The carrier, which operated an extensive domestic network,
faced fierce competition from Italy’s high-speed rail network, with passengers increasingly
opting to travel by train for internal journeys. Figures from state railway
firm Ferrovie dello Stato Italiane show the number of passengers travelling by
train between Rome and Milan – one of Alitalia’s key routes – rose from 1
million in 2008, when the high-speed line launched, to 3.6 million in 2018.
Foreign low-cost airlines such as easyJet and Ryanair also
posed competition for Alitalia, which operated very few international flights.
New national airline ITA will begin operating both domestic
and international flights tomorrow using a fleet of 52 aircraft, including
seven wide bodies and 45 narrow bodies. The airline will offer economy and business class seats, and passengers in both cabins will be able to make free changes to their tickets as standard, according to the website.
To begin with, the carrier’s network
will focus on hubs at Rome Fiumicino and Milan Linate and will include flights
to Brindisi, Bologna, Bari, Catania, Genoa, Naples, Palermo, Pescara, Reggio
Calabria, Lamezia Terme, Trieste, Turin, Venice and Verona in Italy; Algeria,
Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Cairo, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva,
London Heathrow, Madrid, Malta, Munich, Nice, Paris Charles De Gaulle, Paris
Orly, Tirana, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Zurich, Tokyo Haneda and New York.
The carrier will add flights to Florence, Luxembourg,
Stuttgart, Boston, Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo and Miami from March 2022, followed
by Malaga and Los Angeles in June 2022; Marseille and Valencia in July 2022; and
Belgrade and Sofia in August 2022.
ITA says its future route development plans will focus on
long-haul destinations to bridge “the connectivity gap of the country”.
ITA has plans to add more planes to its fleet in 2022, growing
to 13 wide-bodies and 65 narrow-bodies, and the carrier will also begin a fleet
renewal process to replace older aircraft with newer, more fuel-efficient
versions. The company will operate 105 aircraft by the end of 2025, with 70 per
cent of those being new-generation technology.
According to the airline’s website, the company’s industrial
strategy will focus on sustainability and digitisation, with the objective of
becoming “the greenest airline in Europe and a genderless and merit-based air