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TRAVEL NEWS

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

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

ITA will take over some of Alitalia's routes to and from Italy, but not all.
ITA will take over some of Alitalia's routes to and from Italy, but not all. Photo: FILIPPO MONTEFORTE / AFP

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.

Member comments

  1. 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.

  2. 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

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TRAVEL NEWS

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

A number of countries in Europe's Schengen area admit they fear delays and insufficient time to test the process ahead of new, more rigorous EU border checks that will be introduced next year, a new document reveals.

REVEALED: Countries fear non-EU travellers face delays under new EES border checks

Schengen countries are tightening up security at the external borders with the introduction of a new digital system (EES) to record the entry and exit of non-EU citizens in May 2023.

The EES will enable the automatic scanning of passports replacing manual stamping by border guards. It will register the person’s name, type of the travel document, biometric data (fingerprints and facial images) and the date and place of entry and exit. The data will be kept in a centralised database on a rolling three-year basis that is re-set at each entry. 

What the EES is intended to do is increase border security, including the enforcement of the 90-day short-stay limit for tourists and visitors.

EU citizens and third-country nationals who reside in a country of the Schengen area will not be subject to such checks as long as they can prove residency in an EU country however they will still be caught up in any delays at passport control if the new system as many fear, causes longer processing times.

READ ALSO: Foreigners living in EU not covered by new EES border checks

But given its scale, the entry into operation of the system has been raising concerns on many fronts, including the readiness of the physical and digital infrastructure, and the time required for border checks, which could subsequently cause massive queues at borders.

A document on the state of preparations was distributed last week by the secretariat of the EU Council (the EU institution representing member states) and published by Statewatch, a non-profit organisation that monitors civil liberties.

The paper contains the responses from 21 countries to a questionnaire about potential impacts on passenger flows, the infrastructure put in place and the possibility of a gradual introduction of the new system over a number of months.

This is what certain the countries have responded. Responses from Denmark, Spain and Sweden do not appear in the report but the answers from other countries will be relevant for readers in those countries.

READ ALSO: What the EU’s new EES border check system means for travel

‘Double processing time’

Austria and Germany are the most vocal in warning that passport processing times will increase when the EES will become operational.

“The additional tasks resulting from the EES regulation will lead to a sharp increase in process times”, which are expected to “double compared to the current situation,” Austrian authorities say. “This will also affect the waiting times at border crossing points (in Austria, the six international airports),” the document continues.

“Furthermore, border control will become more complicated since in addition to the distinction between visa-exempt and visa-required persons, we will also have to differentiate between EES-required and EES-exempt TCN [third country nationals], as well as between registered and unregistered TCN in EES,” Austrian officials note.

Based on an analysis of passenger traffic carried out with the aviation industry, German authorities estimate that checking times will “increase significantly”.

France expects to be ready for the introduction of the EES “in terms of passenger routes, training and national systems,” but admits that “fluidity remains a concern” and “discussions are continuing… to make progress on this point”.

Italy is also “adapting the border operational processes… in order to contain the increased process time and ensure both safety and security”.

“Despite many arguments for the introduction of automated border control systems based on the need for efficiency, the document makes clear that the EES will substantially increase border crossing times,” Statewatch argues.

‘Stable service unlikely by May 2023’

The border infrastructure is also being adapted for collecting and recording the data, with several countries planning for automated checks. So what will change in practice?

France will set up self-service kiosks in airports, where third-country nationals can pre-register their biometric data and personal information before being directed to the booth for verification with the border guard. The same approach will be adopted for visitors arriving by bus, while tablet devices such as iPads will be used for the registration of car passengers at land and sea borders.

Germany also plans to install self-service kiosks at the airports to “pre-capture” biometric data before border checks. But given the little time for testing the full process, German authorities say “a stable working EES system seems to be unlikely in May 2023.”

Austria intends to install self-service kiosks at the airports of Vienna and Salzburg “in the course of 2023”. Later these will be linked to existing e-gates enabling a “fully automated border crossing”. Austrian authorities also explain that airport operators are seeking to provide more space for kiosks and queues, but works will not be completed before the system is operational.

Italy is increasing the “equipment of automated gates in all the main  airport” and plans to install, at least in the first EES phase, about 600 self-service kiosks at the airports of Rome Fiumicino, Milan Malpensa, Venice and in those with “significant volumes of extra-Schengen traffic,” such as Bergamo, Naples, Bologna and Turin.

Switzerland, which is not an EU member but is part of the Schengen area, is also installing self-service kiosks to facilitate the collection of data. Norway, instead, will have “automated camera solutions operated by the border guards”, but will consider self-service options only after the EES is in operation.

Gradual introduction?

One of the possibilities still in consideration is the gradual introduction of the new system. The European Commission has proposed a ‘progressive approach’ that would allow the creation of “incomplete” passenger files for 9 months following the EES entry into operation, and continuing passport stamping for 3 months.

According to the responses, Italy is the only country favourable to this option. For Austria and France this “could result in more confusion for border guards and travellers”. French officials also argue that a lack of biometric data will “present a risk for the security of the Schengen area”.

France suggested to mitigate with “flexibility” the EES impacts in the first months of its entry into service. In particular, France calls for the possibility to not create EES files for third-country nationals who entered the Schengen area before the system becomes operational, leaving this task to when they return later.

This would “significantly ease the pressure” on border guards “during the first three months after entry into service,” French authorities said.

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