End Of An Era: Alitalia Prepares To Operate Its Final Flight

Italian flag carrier Alitalia is gearing up to take its last flight ever, as it prepares to hand the torch on to new airline ITA. Its final trip will end at just after 11 pm tonight, as AZ1586 touches down in Rome’s Fiumicino Airport from Cagliari. With that, the door will close on a 75 year legacy of aviation.

Alitalia Airbus A330-202 EI-EJK (3)
The door is finally closing on the story of Alitalia. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The final flight

Alitalia’s final flight is loaded into the systems and ready to go. Flight AZ1586 will be the last flight ever taken by the iconic Italian airline, as it prepares to hand the flag carrier torch on to newly founded ITA.

The flight will take off from Cagliari (CAG) at 22:05 local time. After a short one hour and five minutes in the air, it will touch down at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport at approximately 23:10 this evening. The aircraft scheduled to make this historic final flight is EI-DSV, a 13-year-old A320-200 on lease from AerCap.

This service just makes it in to being Alitalia’s last flight, as several others are set to touch down within minutes. Should there be any schedule disruptions, to this flight or any of the others, there are a number of potential services that could end up being its last. For example:

  • AZ1786 Palermo to Rome Fiumicino should land at 23:00
  • AZ2130 Rome Fiumicino to Milan Linate should land at 22:55
  • AZ1766 Catania to Rome Fiumicino should land at 23:00
  • AZ1718 Catania to Milan Linate should land at 22:40

It’s going to be a close-run thing to see which will actually be Alitalia’s last flight. Undoubtedly, some hardcore Alitalia fans may have booked seats on AZ1586 to experience the very last gasp of this Italian icon. Let’s hope, for their sakes, the schedule holds fast, and the anticipated final flight is the expected one.

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Closing the door on 75 years

Alitalia is a brand that once epitomized ‘La Dolce Vita’ and the smooth sophistication of Italy in the post-war era. Once a major force in European aviation, behind only in size to British Airways and Air France, the company has tumbled from its once gilt pedestal to becoming something of a money pit for the Italian taxpayer.

Alitalia has failed to turn a profit in more than 20 years, and despite bailout after bailout, continued to sink. It’s been in bankruptcy protection for almost four years, since 2017, and although the Italian government attempted to sell the airline, no willing bidder could be found. Under the strain of COVID, the airline was renationalized and taken off the market.

Once an airline of the well-heeled and stylish, Alitalia has failed to maintain its place in aviation. Photo: Getty Images

Alitalia has faced stiff competition on every front. The high-speed rail network became the transport mode of choice for environmentally conscious Italians traveling domestically. Further afield, low-cost giants like Ryanair and easyJet battered its prospects on the continent, while foreign airlines stepped in to fill gaps in Alitalia’s relatively thin international schedule.

Now, the story that has been three-quarters of a century in the making is coming to an end. From tomorrow, ITA will pick up where Alitalia leaves off – but it would be amiss to call it the ‘new Alitalia’. ITA’s business model and ambitions are significantly humbler than that of its predecessor.

ITA new livery
ITA is ready to take over. Photo: Simple Flying

Starting with a trimmed down fleet of 52 aircraft – 45 narrowbody and seven widebody – the airline will launch domestic and international flights from tomorrow. Initial destinations include a slew of domestic flights as well as Algeria, Amsterdam, Athens, Barcelona, Brussels, Cairo, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Geneva, London Heathrow, Madrid, Malta, Munich, Nice, Paris Charles De Gaulle, Paris Orly, Tirana, Tel Aviv, Tunis, Zurich, Tokyo Haneda, and New York.

Next year, it plans to launch services to Florence, Luxemburg, Boston, Buenos Aries, Miami, and Sao Paulo. Later come Malaga, Marseille, Belgrade, Sofia, Valencia, and Los Angeles. Its strategy is still full-service, with both business and economy class on sale. However, its eventual full fleet of 105 aircraft, targeted for 2025, will feature 70% new technology planes.

While everyone no doubt wishes ITA all the best, the end of Alitalia remains a painful arrivederci.