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ITA: What does Italy's new national airline mean for travellers?

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ITA: What does Italy's new national airline mean for travellers?
(FILES) In this file photo taken on November 13, 2008 An airliner (top) of an unidentified company takes off as planes of Italian flag carrier Alitalia are parked on the tarmac of Milan's Linate airport. - Alitalia, Italy's first flag carrier and largest airline, created in 1946, is shutting down on October 15, 2021 and the new airline ITA, born out of the ashes of long-struggling Alitalia, intends to commence operations. (Photo by Damien MEYER / AFP)

With the successor to Alitalia launching on Friday, here's what the new national airline means for people flying to, from and within Italy.


Italia Trasporto Aereo, or ITA, starts flying from October 15th after former national carrier Alitalia touched down for the last time on Thursday evening.

It completed its final trip from Cagliari to Rome after 74 four years in the air.

ITA's maiden voyage from Rome to Milan Linate departed from Fiumicino airport at 6.30am on Friday.

Is this the same company by another name?

EU regulators wanted to make sure that financially the new carrier was fully separate from Alitalia, as the bankrupt airline had received billions of euros from the Italian state to keep it operating over the years.

ITA is required to buy Alitalia's brand, aircraft and other assets in order to ensure that it is not just the same company by a different name, and therefore liable for Alitalia's debts.

However the new carrier is set to look very similar.

ITA purchased the Alitalia brand on the eve its launch on October 14th for a knock-down price of €90 million.

Alitalia's commissioners had put the brand name up for sale in an open tender - a condition insisted upon by the European Commission - with a base price of €290 million.

ITA’s executive president Alfredo Altavilla dismissed the initial asking price as ‘unrealistic’, reports the news daily Il Messaggero.

The purchase means state-backed ITA will be allowed to use its predecessor's name and identity, including website domain, branding and uniforms.

So what changes as Alitalia becomes ITA? Here's what we know.


What kind of airline is ITA?

ITA will look much the same as Alitalia, at least on the surface: it will retain the green-white-red colours, as well as Alitalia's sloping 'A' in the shape of a plane's tail.

But ITA is to be a smaller operation than Alitalia, retaining 85 percent of its predecessor's take-off and landing slots at Milan Linate airport and 43 percent at Rome Fiumicino.

Its fleet is planned to be around half the size, starting with 52 aircraft, most of them smaller narrow-body planes. It will employ fewer than 3,000 people compared to the more than 11,000 who work for Alitalia currently, handing off ground operations and maintenance service to subsidiaries. 

Not all costs are being cut, however: ITA is not expected to seek to compete with budget airlines such as Ryanair and easyJet, which have been snapping up slots at Italian airports as Alitalia flounders. Ryanair is expected to become the biggest domestic carrier in Italy this summer, with more than 100 routes. 

ITA is more likely to look for niche routes that its low-cost competitors don't cover, as well as offering long-haul flights and full onboard service. 


Where will ITA fly?

ITA plans to make Rome Fiumicino its main international hub, with Milan Linate its second-biggest airport.

Its business plan includes 61 routes in 2021 to 45 different destinations, chiefly other European capitals including Paris, London, Amsterdam and Brussels.

Its long-haul routes will focus on major airports in the United States and Japan, including New York, Boston, Miami and Tokyo. 

The carrier began selling tickets for its first transatlantic flights on October 5th.

ITA will initially fly from Rome Fiumicino to New York JFK, Miami, Boston, and Los Angeles, and from Milan Malpensa to New York JFK.

EXPLAINED: What you need to know about travel between the USA and Italy

The company’s first intercontinental route will be Rome Fiumicino to JFK, with six flights each way per week from November 4th, rising to 10 weekly flights by December 2021 and up to 14 a week over the Christmas holiday period.

It will also fly domestically between 21 airports in Italy, allowing people travelling to or from smaller airports such as Venice, Genoa, Verona, Florence, Naples and Bari to connect to international flights in Rome or Milan.

By 2025 the airline hopes to add nearly 30 new destinations, including Washington DC, Sao Paolo and Buenos Aires.

It has said that it aims to become "the first choice on international destinations to and from Rome Fiumicino and to be the key company for business and leisure traffic to and from Milan Linate". 

Travellers at Fiumicino airport. Photo by Filippo MONTEFORTE / AFP

What about passengers who had booked Alitalia flights?

EU rules on passengers' rights in the event of cancellations bind airlines to offer customers either an alternative flight or a full refund (find a guide here).

Alitalia last month stopped selling tickets for flights from October 15th, and confirmed that customers who had booked tickets after that point can receive a refund.

Italy’s Corriere della Sera newspaper previously estimated that some 255,000 people had tickets booked with Alitalia after October 15th.

READ ALSO: What are my rights in Italy if a flight is cancelled or delayed?

Under the European Commission’s continuity rules, ITA is barred from inheriting Alitalia’s MilleMiglia free miles programme, which has six million members, reports the news outlet Il Sole 24 Ore.

The best hope for the loyalty programme's customers hoping to retain their credit is that Alitalia's commissioners find another buyer, with American Express expected to show an interest, according to the outlet.


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liliam28 2021/07/22 12:44
We are in the same situation our flight returns to MIA from FCO on Oct 16, a day after Alitalia closes. I can’t find information as how our return will be handled. Delta as well as Alitalia continue selling seats on this flight. Worse case scenario, longer Rome vacation.? I hope someone provides some information soon
josephine.perrella 2021/07/19 21:25
We are planning to fly to Rome on Sept 30th and returning to NYC on Oct,15th.I spent 2 hours on hold with Alitalia today trying to get an answer whether ITA will honor Alitalia tickets. The customer service rep was insulted by the question. "Of course your return ticket will be honored"....and the ITA debut hasn't been settled yet... I also contacted Amex (the card that I used to purchase the tickets) to have them help sort out the flight status. Hopefully, this will be sorted out before October.

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