ROME (AP) — Italy’s bankrupt national airline, Alitalia, made its final flights Thursday before formally folding, marking the end of business for the 74-year-old carrier and an end of an era for Italy.
A flight attendant at Rome’s Fiumicino-Leonardo da Vinci Airport thanked passengers for their loyalty before boarding the noon Flight AZ1581 to Cagliari, Sardinia. The last scheduled Alitalia flight was the return from Cagliari, Flight AZ1586, due to land at 11 p.m. Thursday.
Alitalia, which had operated in the red for more than a decade, will be replaced by a new national carrier, ITA, or Italy Air Transport, which launches Friday with a celebratory aircraft emblazoned with a “Born in 2021″ across it, news reports said.
But to most ordinary passengers, little may seemingly have changed overnight: On Thursday, ITA completed negotiations to purchase the Alitalia brand and the Alitalia.com domain, paying 90 million euros for the right to be called Alitalia.
The European Union’s executive commission has given the go-ahead to a 1.35 billion-euro ($1.58 billion) injection of government funding into the new airline, but ITA only plans to hire around a quarter of the estimated 10,000 Alitalia employees.
In recent weeks, Alitalia workers staged strikes and protests denouncing their treatment and what for many was just the final episode after years of crises. They cast doubt about the viability of the new airline and said its slimmed-down size, workforce, routes and fleet was presumably aimed at making it attractive for a foreign airline to buy.
Union leader Antonio Amoroso told the Foreign Press Association on Thursday that it was “a failed plan from the industrial point of view that doesn’t serve the country, doesn’t serve the community to which an enormous amount of money is asked, that seriously affects the workers.”
Among its routes, ITA plans to operate flights to New York from Milan and Rome, and to Tokyo, Boston and Miami from Rome. European destinations from Rome and Milan’s Linate airport will also include Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt and Geneva.