ROME (AP), Italy's national airline, ITA Airways flew its first flights Friday. It also unveiled its logo and brand, recycling the Alitalia red, white, and green colors as it tries for a new future and competing with low-cost carriers.
ITA (or Italy Air Transport) was officially launched Thursday night after Alitalia, the bankrupt flag carrier, landed its last flights. This ended a 74-year-old business history that had been marred by a series financial crises in recent years.
Strikes and protests followed Alitalia’s formal demise. This is because ITA Airways, a smaller airline, only hires around a quarter Alitalia’s 10,000+ employees. Negotiations are ongoing with unions.
ITA paid 90million euros (more than $104 million) to acquire the rights to Alitalia's brand and website. However, the new airline is now called ITA Airways. It has its own website as well as a frequent flier program called Volare ("Fly") and has its own website.
Alfredo Altavilla, President of ITA, stated in a statement that "Discontinuity does not mean denying history but evolving to keep pace with the times."
Altavilla stated that ITA's significantly smaller size -- its fleet, workforce, and destinations -- makes it a viable carrier, able to compete with low-cost carriers while still offering superior service, connections, and value.
He stated that ITA Airways was being created right-sized in the best dimensions in terms of its fleet size and destinations. "We don’t have the negative legacy of being too large that conflicts with the economic reality."
When asked about the reported predictions of ITA Airways' collapse by low-cost carriers, he reacted with a smug smile.
Altavilla stated that while they might be right that it will be difficult for us this year, she was curious to see their PNL (profits and losses) and balance sheet without the subsidies they receive from the small Italian airports.
He said, "I want a level playing ground."
The 6:20 a.m. flight from Milan's Linate Airport to Bari, Italy on the Adriatic Sea was the first ITA flight. ITA currently flies to 44 destinations, and aims to expand that number to 74 within four years.
The company will operate flights from Rome to New York, Milan, and Boston, as well as to Tokyo, Boston, and Miami.
European destinations will include Paris, London and Amsterdam as well as Brussels, Geneva, Geneva, Frankfurt, Germany, and Brussels. There are plans to offer routes to South America as well as Los Angeles.
Alitalia's signature "tricolore", Alitalia’s signature on the tail, will be used to color the ITA planes in royal blue. This will reflect the red, green, and white colors of the Italian flag. Officials from Alitalia stated Friday that the company chose a color scheme for the new aircraft to reflect the colors of the Italian national team's blue colours.
The new Airbus blue aircraft is only visible in ads, while Alitalia's white fleet is actually on the ground.
Officials were hesitant about potential partnerships with other airlines. Alitalia was previously a member the SkyTeam alliance which included Delta, Air France, and KLM among others.
ITA currently has 52 aircraft and expects to grow to 105 over the same time. ITA is pointing out next-generation aircraft using sustainable fuel sources.
The company was founded with 2,800 employees, 70% from Alitalia. It stated that it plans to grow its workforce to 5,750 people by 2025.