By Winston Shek
Italy’s New Flag Carrier ITA Unveils Order of 50+ Airbus Aircraft
A new era of civil aviation in Italy is set to commence, as Italy’s current flag carrier, Alitalia, is set to terminate its operations on October 15 due to its bankruptcy proceedings. In its place, Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) will succeed the carrier with a fresh balance sheet, 52 aircraft from its predecessor and 2800 employees.
As part of a press release at the time of the announcement, ITA released a fleet growth plan for 105 aircraft by 2025, with 81 “new-generation” aircraft in its fleet. On Thursday, it revealed a new order for 28 of these new-generation aircraft, signing a Memorandum of Understanding – MOU – with Airbus for seven Airbus A220s, eleven Airbus A320neo family aircraft and ten Airbus A330neos.
In addition, ITA plans to lease 31 aircraft from Air Lease Corporation, including 15 Airbus A220s, two Airbus A320neos, nine Airbus A321neos and five A330-900neos. In total, the Rome-based airline will lease a total of 56 new Airbus aircraft over the course of its fleet plan, partnering with six leasing corporations – half of the leasing corporations that Alitalia cooperated with. Specifically, thirteen long-haul aircraft are expected to be leased, including the Airbus A350-900, and 43 short and medium-haul aircraft.
It is unknown which aircraft the carrier will receive first or what cabin will be featured inside. ITA expects to receive its first “new-generation” aircraft by the first quarter of 2022, maintaining its original plan. By 2025, the Italian flag carrier expects 70 percent of its fleet to be composed of new-generation aircraft, a decrease from its original estimate of 81 new-generation aircraft.
Currently, based on its current fleet composition, ITA will have a mix of a majority Airbus fleet for its launch on October 15, with 45 narrowbody aircraft and seven widebody aircraft. Per Planespotters.net, at the time of writing, the flag carrier has two aircraft registered to its name, an Airbus A320-200 and Airbus A330-200.
Alitalia’s previous fleet enabled the usage of Embraer E175s and Embraer E195s for its CityLiner subsidiary, used for short-haul hops from Milan and Rome. In addition, Alitalia retained a sub-fleet of one Boeing 777-300ER and eleven Boeing 777-200ERs, pre-COVID, for international operations.
ITA’s Executive Chairman, Alfredo Altavilla, expressed his satisfaction with the deal, commenting: “The strategic partnership with Airbus and ALC is crucial for ITA to jumpstart our Business Plan aiming at achieving our targets of a new environmental-friendly fleet with significantly lower operating and leasing costs. I want to thank both Christian Scherer, CCO of Airbus, and Steven F. Udvar-Házy, Executive Chairman of Air Lease Corporation, for their trust in the future of our brand-new airline.”
Italia Trasporto Aereo’s influx of aircraft will fuel a network expansion from an initial network of 45 destinations and 61 routes to 74 destinations and 81 routes by 2025, per its original plan. Recently, ITA was approved to fly to the United States, allowing it to serve Boston, New York and Miami during the IATA winter season of 2021-2022, in addition to planned service to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport. Furthermore, ITA plans to double its long-haul offering by the summer of 2022, adding flights to Buenos Aires, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro and Washington D.C.
Amid its order for new aircraft, Italia Trasporto Aereo still has further obstacles to hurdle, like the acquisition of the flag carrier brand, Alitalia. Per a report by AirlineGeeks in September, ITA will bid on the Alitalia brand by October 4 for at least 290 million Euros ($335.7 million), despite the brand being worth 150 million Euros ($173.7 million). Other bidders like Ryanair may try to drive up the bid price, forcing ITA to burn through its 1.3 billion Euros designated to start operations.
Furthermore, the airline needs to cooperate with unions for the 2800 employees, scheduled to come back by its launch. However, the drastic drop in employees from upwards of 10,000 is sparking protests in Rome. Per local Italian media, a protest outside of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport against Alitalia caused the cancelation of 60 percent of Alitalia flights last week.
Financially, ITA will need to make wise choices with its 3 billion Euros from the Italian government, in addition to investor money. The carrier aims to reach its break-even point by the third quarter of 2023 and have an EBIT of 209 million Euros ($246.877 million) in 2025. Additionally, its turnover is expected to reach 3,329 million Euros ($3,931 million).