By Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
ITA Airways, One Year of Flight Operations
ITA Airways, Italy’s national airline, was founded on June 29, 2020, by the government of President Giuseppe Conte, 100% public society (property of the Italian Ministry of Economy and Finance) with Francesco Caio as chairman and Fabio Lazzerini (former Alitalia manager) as CEO.
October 14, 2021, marked the end of Alitalia’s (former Italy’s national airline) history after 74 years. The next day, on Oct. 15, 2021, the new Italian airline, ITA Airways, began flight operations when the first flight, (AZ 1637) from Milan Linate to Bari Palese landed at 7:35 a.m., with 60 passengers on board and the crew still in Alitalia uniforms.
From this flight started the story of the new Italian national airline, which, despite trying hard to proceed smoothly and break away from the “bad legacy” left by Alitalia, always seemed to be in trouble and is still struggling to “take off”.
Alitalia brand was bought for 90 million from ITA Airways but never to be used and officially “to remove it from the market.” The new airline, however, had half of Alitalia’s old fleet, 52 planes, which will be gradually repainted blue, and less than half of its staff, 2,800 people.
ITA Airways officially joined the SkyTeam alliance (like Alitalia before) on October 29, 2021, and for the time being until December 31, 2022, it will belong to it.
Right from the start, the European Union’s Antitrust Authority imposed on ITA Airways the necessity of no continuity between Alitalia and the new Italian airline. This meant ITA Airways couldn’t buy from Alitalia the loyalty program “MilleMiglia” with more than 5 million members and the maintenance and handling branches. The Italian government tried to finance the new airline with €3 billion euros, but since the Antitrust Authority limited public financing, there was just a 1.35 billion euros financing for three years, €700 million in 2021, €400 million in 2022 and €250 million in 2023.
Due to the change of government in Italy from Giuseppe Conte to Mario Draghi, Alfredo Altavilla took over Francesco Caio as chairman of the airline. From the beginning, he did not get along very well with CEO Fabio Lazzerini and the first tensions began, which will never be resolved.
In 2022, the first offers to privatize the airline arrived from different buyers. The first was from MSC and Lufthansa, and the Italian government had the option to remain a minority shareholder. Although everything seemed ready for sale, the American fund Certares and the airline Delta and Air France-KLM took over, making another offer and the first negotiation fell apart, proceeding to the latter. Meanwhile, more than half of ITA Airways’ board members resigned over disagreements with Chairman Altavilla.
Early June 2022 saw the arrival of the first Airbus A350-900 for intercontinental routes to America, and ITA Airways was the first Italian airline to use this aircraft. As of October 14, 2022, there are 69 aircraft in the fleet, including the six new Airbus A350s, eight A330-200s, 31 A320ceos, and 18 A319ceos. New Airbus A220s will also be introduced in October. The first two, with the “Born To Be Sustainable” livery, made their first commercial flight on Sunday, October 16.
ITA Airways plans by 2026, a fleet of 80% new generation aircraft that will lead to an estimated 1.3 mln tons of CO2 emissions reduction over four years, from 2022 to 2026. Great news also from the new loyalty program, “Volare,” which has over 700,000 members and continues to grow.
It has been a year of great difficulty for ITA Airways, which, amid internal disagreements and external impositions, has had problems from the outset in operating and overcoming each new obstacle, also posed by restrictions due to the pandemic. Since the first day of flight operations, Italy’s flag carrier today has carried 9 million passengers, with an average of 95 travelers per flight. However, from October 2021 to June 2022, it recorded a daily loss of €1.6 million.
The privatization negotiations are very important and it is clear that time is now running out. The new government in Italy will finally give a future strategy for the Italian national airline that maybe seems destined to follow in the footsteps of Alitalia.