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After years of financial difficulties and unsuccessful rescue attempts, new state-owned airline Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) took over from Alitalia on Friday, permanently grounding the 75-year-old one-time emblem of Italian flair and splendour.
An early morning flight from Milan touched down in the southern city of Bari shortly before 0600 GMT to commemorate the premiere of the new, shrunken aircraft, which flies in the same green-white-red livery as its predecessor.
Alitalia, the traditional pick of popes, prima donnas, and Italy’s political elite, has been operated by state-appointed administrators since 2017 in order to avoid liquidation. The airline, which was created in 1946, went through a dizzying array of restructurings and ownership changes.
The corporation has only had one profitable year this century, and the government has rushed to its aid several times, spending more than 8 billion euros ($9.27 billion) in the last three years alone.
ITA purchased Alitalia’s iconic brand for 90 million euros, less than one- third of what Alitalia had hoped for, the carrier announced late Friday. Alitalia’s final rites were surrounded by political controversy, with the far-right opposition party Brothers of Italy blaming Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government for its collapse.
“Today we are losing another jewel, a company that has forged the history of our nation and … made us proud to be Italian,” said the party leader Giorgia Meloni.
After attempting to sell Alitalia to private investors, Rome relented to the catastrophic effects of the pandemic on the airline industry in 2020 and chose to construct ITA from its ashes. The new carrier, in which the government will invest 1.35 billion euros over three years, will begin with 52 planes and 2,800 people, compared to Alitalia, which has roughly 110 planes and a workforce of 10,000.
According to the terms of the agreement reached with the European Commission, there must be a clear break between Alitalia and its successor, and the new airline must be profitable by the conclusion of its 2021-2025 business plan.
However, ITA may find it difficult to shake Alitalia’s reputation of high expenses, incompetence, and considerable political and trade union influence.
The introduction of a more agile carrier casts doubt on the future of more than 7,000 Alitalia employees, who will be subjected to government-funded temporary layoff scheme until at least the end of 2022.
Story by : Norvisi Mawunyegah