ITA: Italy's new national airline takes off as Alitalia name lives on

A new dawn begins for air travel in Italy.

Italy's new national airline ITA takes to the skies on Friday 15 October after Alitalia made its final voyage last night, with a flight from Rome to Cagliari.

ITA, whose full name is Italia Trasporto Aereo, replaces Alitalia which ceased operating yesterday after 74 years.

On the eve of its launch, however, ITA bought the Alitalia brand and naming rights for €90 million, down from the original €290 million asking price.

This means that the state-backed ITA will be allowed to use its predecessor's identity, including website domain, brand, livery and uniforms, and the permanent right to use the Alitalia name.

ITA's maiden voyage will be from Milan Linate to Bari airport on Friday morning.

The launch of the airline was preceded by intensive talks between Italy and the European Commission over how to carve out a role for the new carrier and make it independent from the loss-making Alitalia.

The move to keep ITA separate from its predecessor is to ensure it would not be liable for paying back billions of euro the old carrier had received in state aid.

ITA, which is fully owned by the government of Italy, starts off with a fleet of 52 planes, set to rise to 105 by the end of 2025.

However the new slimmed-down airline will employ only around 2,800 of the 11,000 Alitalia staff, although its workforce may increase to 5,750 in 2025.

The carrier will initially serve 44 destinations, with this number set to rise to 74 by 2025.

In addition to key airports such as London-Heathrow and Paris-Charles de Gaulle, ITA will serve more than a dozen Italian cities.

The company has begun selling tickets for transatlantic destinations in the US, to launch over the coming months, including flights between Rome Fiumicino and New York JFK, Miami, Boston and Los Angeles, as well as between Milan Malpensa and New York JFK.

More long-haul flights are expected in the spring of 2022, reportedly including Buenos Aires and São Paulo.

The new airline takes off at a difficult time amid competition from low-cost rivals and with the aviation industry still reeling from the covid-19 pandemic.