Alitalia Successor ITA Confirms October 15 Launch

 - August 24, 2021, 1:46 PM

Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) will open the sales of flights and the application process for staff on August 26 as it moves forward with plans to start commercial operations on October 15, the new national airline of Italy said Tuesday. The successor to bankrupt Alitalia last week obtained its air operator certificate and license from Italian civil aviation authority ENAC. Alitalia announced separately that it will no longer sell tickets for flights due to depart after ITA’s launch starting midnight on August 24 local time.

ITA and union representatives have scheduled their first meeting for Wednesday morning to negotiate what the company described as “new working conditions in line with market practices.” ITA did not provide details on what the conditions entail, but last month the start-up noted that “all people will be hired with a new employment contract that ensures greater competitiveness and flexibility in comparison with other operators in the sector.”

Negotiations likely will prove difficult because ITA will launch as a much smaller airline than Alitalia, which failed to report profits during most of its almost 75-year history and again filed for bankruptcy in May 2017. The new airline will start its activities with an initial fleet of 52 aircraft—less than half of Alitalia’s pre-Covid fleet of 113 aircraft—and between 2,750 and 2,950 employees, compared with almost 11,000 people now employed by the Alitalia Group. Yet, according to ITA’s business plan, staff numbers at the “aviation” business will rise to 5,550 to 5,700 people by 2025 and it could hire an additional 3,750 to 3,950 people by 2025 if the company wins the tender for Alitalia’s ground handling and maintenance divisions. That would increase ITA’s employment level to only 12 percent below that of Alitalia.

The ITA board on Tuesday approved the company’s binding offer for Alitalia’s aviation business, which ITA noted “includes 52 aircraft, a related number of slots, as well as contracts and complementary assets from the aviation sector in order to start operations on October 15.” The new airline said it already submitted a non-binding offer to Alitalia’s administrators on August 16.

It did not disclose whether it has also submitted an offer for the Alitalia brand. The starting fleet consists of seven widebodies and 45 narrowbodies, reportedly seven Airbus 330s, 44 A320 family aircraft, and one Embraer jet.

“An indispensable condition and our top priority is to complete negotiation with Alitalia under extraordinary administration for the sale of the aviation perimeter as soon as possible,” ITA chairman Alfredo Altavilla said in a statement. He added the new airline has “confidence in a constructive interaction with the trade unions in order to provide ITA with a new innovative employment contract capable of ensuring structural competitiveness of the airline with competitors.” Italian daily newspaper Corriere Della Sera reported that ITA management has set a September 20 deadline to reach an agreement with unions to allow the company, in the absence of an agreement, “to develop alternative regulatory solutions.”

Alitalia has gradually lost market share to low-cost carriers, and questions remain over whether its successor can regain lost ground. Ryanair stood as the largest operator of routes into and out of Italy in 2020 with a 28 percent share, or almost four times the share held by Alitalia, according to data from ENAC. With a 35 percent share, Alitalia remained the largest airline on domestic routes last year though it risks losing its lead as Ireland’s Ryanair, combined with its Malta-based sibling Malta Air, accounted for 34.4 percent of passengers. The low-cost carrier group is expanding its footprint in Italy, with the addition of new routes, a new base in Turin starting November 1, and additional aircraft into existing bases, including Rome Fiumicino, Naples, and Bologna.

ITA reiterated it intends to proceed, as planned, with the fleet renewal. “Contacts with the main aircraft manufacturers continue in order to identify, by the end of September, the strategic supplier that enables the airline to operate a homogeneous aircraft fleet,” it said in a statement. 

Italy’s new flag carrier also will launch a distinct loyalty program because it may not bid for Alitalia’s MilleMiglia program under a deal between the Italian authorities and the European Commission to ensure economic discontinuity between ITA and Alitalia.