ROME, Italy: Following the closing of Italy's bankrupt flag carrier Alitalia and its 74-year history, the country's new national airline, ITA Airways, flew its inaugural flight from Milan's Linate airport to the Italian city of Bari on Friday.
Alitalia's closing was marked with strikes, as the much smaller ITA Airways is only hiring some 25 percent of Alitalia's more than 10,000 employees. Negotiations with unions are ongoing.
ITA paid over $104 million for the rights to the Alitalia brand and website, but the new airline is called ITA Airways, which has its own website as well as a new frequent flier program, called "Volare" ("Fly").
"Discontinuity doesn't mean denying the past, but evolving to keep up with the times," ITA President Alfredo Altavilla said in a statement.
During a conference launching the airline, Altavilla insisted that ITA's slimmer fleet, workforce and destinations make it a viable carrier that can compete with low-cost airlines, while offering better service, connections and value.
ITA is flying to 44 destinations and aims to increase that number to 74 within four years. Its planes will be royal blue with Alitalia's trademark "tricolore" on the tail, reflecting the red, white and green of the Italian flag.
ITA has 52 aircraft, but said it will grow to 105 within four years, and is pointing to next-generation aircraft that use sustainable, alternative fuel sources.
The company has begun operating with 2,800 employees - 70 percent of them from Alitalia - and said it expects to increase the size of its workforce to 5,750 by 2025.