The United States Department of Transportation (DOT) has officially cleared Italia Trasporto Aero, S.P.A. (ITA), to conduct commercial flights to the United States. The airline is expected to launch operations from October 15th and is serving as a successor to the struggling Alitalia. However, as ITA prepares for launch, Alitalia looms overhead as Alitalia brand assets go up for sale, and ITA could be the purchaser.
ITA is good to go for US operations
On Friday, September 17th, the DOT officially granted ITA permission to conduct nonstop scheduled flights to the United States. ITA will be able to service routes as contained under the US-EU Agreement governing flying between the United States and European Union states, including Italy.
ITA initially filed for US flight authorizations at the end of August. The carrier sought approval to conduct operations from Milan to New York and from Rome to Boston, New York, and Miami before the end of the year. In 2022, the airline plans on adding Washington D.C. and Los Angeles flights from Rome, with Chicago and San Francisco flights following in 2023.
With approval from the DOT, ITA now needs to find slots and gates at relevant airports. As Alitalia flies to New York, Boston, and Miami, ITA will likely be taking over Alitalia’s slots and gates to start its flights once Alitalia officially shuts down in October.
Alitalia looms overhead
Despite ITA being positioned as a successor to Alitalia, the airline is not quite going away. A report in Politico states that ITA’s head, Fabio Lazzerini, plans to buy the Alitalia brand. The Italian government announced the tender on September 17th.
It is unclear if any other parties are planning to seriously bid for Alitalia, but ITA is throwing its hat in the ring. Taking over the brand assets would be a natural extension, given that ITA is taking over much of Alitalia’s old aircraft and is sticking with some of the carrier’s US route map.
If the Alitalia brand is won by ITA, which is slated to start at auction for €290 million (~$340 million), it will further reduce the daylight between ITA and Alitalia. While talk of a sale of Alitalia has been around for years, it appears no other major bidders aside from ITA are jockeying for the brand.
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A disadvantage for ITA
Alitalia is a well-known brand with plenty of loyal customers and miles tied up in the airline’s loyalty program. That program, however, is barred from becoming part of ITA, which puts ITA at a significant disadvantage.
With less than a month before the airline starts operations, ITA is unknown to many travelers. The carrier is not yet selling any tickets, and its final products, aircraft configuration, and schedules are yet to be finalized. This is why the Alitalia brand could be incredibly powerful for ITA, but still, there is a lot of work to do, especially when it comes to marketing.
ITA is at another disadvantage: it has no US partners. While Alitalia, a member of the SkyTeam alliance, partnered with US carrier Delta Air Lines, ITA has not made any moves in this space yet. Without access to a connecting network in the United States, a limited connecting network for flights within Europe, and a limited brand presence, this is leaving much of the transatlantic market between the US and Italy up for grabs for US airlines as ITA will mostly be jockeying for nonstop origin and destination demand on its routes.
ITA is starting to look more and more like Alitalia, but it will face some strong headwinds that could be a drag on the airline’s financials. For now, it is cleared to fly to the United States and appears on track to take over Alitalia’s brand, but it is far from guaranteed to avoid the fate of Alitalia.
Are you going to fly ITA between the US and Italy? Should ITA be re-branded as Alitalia? Let us know in the comments!