Italia Trasporto Aereo, or ITA, will start flying from October 15th, Italy’s economy ministry confirmed this week after reaching a deal with the European Commission.
EU regulators wanted to make sure that the new carrier was fully separate from Alitalia, the bankrupt national airline that has received billions of euros from the Italian state to keep it operating.
ITA will have 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.
What else will change when Alitalia becomes ITA? Here’s what we know so far.
What kind of airline will ITA be?
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.
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But ITA will 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 will 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 will be 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 has indicated it will make Rome Fiumicino its main international hub, with Milan Linate its second-biggest airport.
Its preliminary 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.
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, Los Angeles, 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”.
What about passengers already booked on Alitalia flights?
Existing bookings remain a sticky question. Given the European Commission’s insistence on separating ITA from Alitalia, it’s not clear whether tickets booked via the old airline will be valid for travel on the new one – nor who will be responsible for issuing refunds if they’re not.
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). Given that Alitalia will cease flying by mid-October, it will presumably be obliged to refund passengers who are booked to travel after this date.
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But with the airline already struggling to pay its staff’s wages, finding the funds will be a challenge – unless the Italian state steps in once more. The government allocated another €100 million to propping up the carrier in the financial support decree approved in May.
In the meantime, though Alitalia’s website continues to show flights through the end of 2021, it’s probably safest not to book anything beyond October 14th.
ITA, meanwhile, is expected to start taking reservations in August.