Alitalia, or its full name Alitalia – Società Aerea Italiana, is the leading Italian airline. It was founded in 1946. In chronic difficulty, it underwent a first attempt at privatisation in 2006, then was privatised in 2008 through the structure Italian Airline Company, while being merged with Air One. In 2014, it was partially acquired by Etihad, in which it holds a 49% stake. In April 2017, following the rejection by an internal referendum of an umpteenth restructuring plan, the government announced that in six months Alitalia would either be sold or declared bankrupt, after thirty years of losses. Alitalia’s bankruptcy proceedings began on 2 May 20173.

Since July 2001 it has been part of the Skyteam alliance (including the Air France-KLM group, Aeroflot, Aerolíneas Argentinas, AeroMexico, China Southern Airlines, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta Air Lines, Garuda Indonesia and Korean Air) and is also a member of Skyteam Cargo. Its turnover amounts to more than 5 billion euros. Its fleet comprises 122 aircraft in operation and the number of employees was approximately 12,500. It carries more than 22 million passengers per year (2015).


Although the company’s name can be traced back to the Società Area Avio-Linee Italiane (ALI), which was founded in the 1920s at the instigation of Fiat, the present company was not created until after the Second World War, in 1946, with the support of Trans World Airlines (TWA) and British European Airways (BEA), which financed Aerolinee Italiane Internazionali and Linee Aeree Italiane (LAI), which finally merged in September 1957.

Its creation

On 16 September 1946, Alitalia – Aerolinee Internazionali Italiane was founded in Rome with entirely private capital. It adopts a logo with a winged arrow. It will become operational from 5 May 1947 with its first civil aircraft, a three-engined Fiat G.12 “Alcione”, piloted by Virgilio Reinero. The first flight will leave Turin for the capital Rome and then Catania in Sicily.

On 6 July 1947, the Savoia-Marchetti SM.95 “Marco Polo” made the first international flight from Rome to Oslo with 38 Norwegian sailors on board. In March 1948), the company inaugurated its first intercontinental connection with a Lancastrian, a 36-hour flight to Milan, Rome, Dakar, Natal, Rio de Janeiro, San Paolo and Buenos Aires4.

At the end of 1949, the fleet was completely renewed: four Douglas DC-4s, purchased from Pan Am. In 1950, the first stewardesses made their appearance. Their uniforms were made by the Italian haute couture house Sorelle Fontana. On 31 October 1957, the state holding company on which the company depended, IRI, forced the merger between Alitalia and LAI – Linee Aeree Italiane, the other state-owned airline. Thus Alitalia – Linee Aeree Italiane was born, and the new company became the sole national airline, the Italian flag carrier, with its base at Rome’s Ciampino International Airport5.

The year 1960 marked the company’s affirmation on the international scene with its designation as official carrier for the Rome Summer Olympic Games. On this occasion, the company acquired its first jets, the Douglas DC-8 and Caravelle. It moved away from its British investors in the 1960s to become an entirely Italian-owned company by the end of the decade. The company then exceeded one million passengers a year. Its base was moved from Rome Ciampino airport to the new Rome Fiumicino airport, which opened on 11 January 19616.

On 3 June 1964, the company set up a subsidiary in Naples called ATI – Aero Trasporti Italiani, to operate domestic routes. By 1965, the company had carried more than 3 million passengers. New aircraft were added to the fleet, the DC-9/30 on which hot meals were served. In 1967, Alitalia abandoned its historic headquarters in the Roman district of Parioli, Via Maresciallo Pilsudski, and moved to the EUR7 skyscraper.

source: Rome Airport