MILAN Reuters - Alitalia, a one-time symbol of Italian style and glamour brought low by state mismanagement, will operate its last flight on Thursday after 75 years before handing over to its downsized successor Italia Trasporto Aereo ITA The traditional choice of popes, prima donnas and Italy's political elite, Alitalia has been run since 2017 by state-appointed administrators to avoid being liquidated.
A night flight from Naples to Rome in Cagliari is due to land in city center of Sardinia at around 2100 GMT. It would be the final bow for the airline as founded in 1946 after a succession of restructurings and changes in ownership.
The company has ended only one year in the black this century and the government has repeatedly ran to its rescue, spending more than 8 billion euros $9.27 billion just in the last three years.
As has often been the case during its lifetime, Alitalia's last rites were surrounded by political dispute, with the far-right opposition party Brothers of Italy blamed Prime Minister Mario Draghi's government for its demise.
Today we are losing another jewel, a company that has made our nation proud and for us to be Italian", said Giorgia Meloni.
After seeking to sell Alitalia to private investors, Rome surrendered to the disastrous consequences of the pandemic for the airline sector and decided to create ITA from its ashes.
The new carrier, which the government will invest 1.35 billion euros over three years, will start with 52 jets and 2,800 employees, compared with around 110 aircraft and a workforce of 10,000 for Alitalia.
Under a deal negotiated with the European Commission there must be clear discontinuity between Alitalia and its successor, and the new carrier needs to be profitable by the end of its 2021 - 2025 business plan.
However, ITA's legacy of heavy costs, mismanagement and high political and trade union influence may be difficult for Alitalia to shrug off.
The new carrier is in talks to buy Alitalia's brand and is expected to maintain the traditional green-white – red livery.
The launch of a temporary carrier leaves a question mark over the future of more than 7,000 Alitalia workers who will be put under a temporary lay off scheme paid for by the government until at least September 2022.