the history of Alitalia
Formed in September 1946 shortly after World
War II ended, Alitalia began operations under a restrictive peace treaty
in May 1947, operating four G-12 airplanes built by Fiat and rented from
the Italian Air Force. The British Government assisted in the formation of
the airline by investing a 30 percent interest through British European
Airways, a state-owned carrier that would later become British Airways.
The first scheduled Alitalia flights originated in Rome and terminated in
Catania and Turin.
The airline quickly acquired six SM.95 airplanes built by Savoia-Marchetti
and completed its first international flight, from Rome to Oslo, Norway,
in July 1947. The four-engine SM.95, which carried up to 26 passengers,
was used to expand service to other European destinations. Because the
airplane was not pressurized, passengers and crew members were required to
wear oxygen masks on flights over the Alps.
The Lancastrian, a commercial version of the British-built Avro Lancaster
bomber, helped launch Alitalia's longest service route at the time. The
flight originated in Milan and ended in Buenos Aires, Argentina, taking
almost 30 hours to complete.
Despite several notable successes during its first four years of
commercial aviation operations, Alitalia carried fewer than 80,000
passengers and operated at a loss.
Determined that achieving successful passenger operations depended on
providing the most comfortable air service possible, Alitalia replaced its
entire fleet in 1950 with one Douglas DC-3 and four DC-4s and took over
another Italian airline. Alitalia's resolve was rewarded in 1952 with its
first profitable year. By 1955, the airline once again replaced its entire
fleet, this time acquiring four Convair 340s for short-to-medium routes
and four DC-6Bs for long-range routes.
Alitalia's newfound success continued, and in 1954 the airline earned
enough profit to cover the losses remaining from its early years. In 1957,
Alitalia merged with the second-largest Italian airline to form a single
national airline. The merger brought twelve DC-3s, which were replaced
seven years later by turboprop Fokker F-27s, and Alitalia enlarged its
route structure to more than 6 million mi (9.6 million km). Total fleet
size was 37 airplanes, including the DC-7s that began arriving the same
year. In the year after the merger, the number of passengers carried
almost tripled, to 657,000.
The airline continued to follow its proven plan of fleet modernization,
joining the jet age in 1960 with the introduction of DC-8s and Caravelle
SE210s into its fleet. For the first time in its history, Alitalia carried
more than one million passengers in a single year.
In response to the growing market for chartered flights, Alitalia
purchased a 90 percent interest in a charter airline with a history dating
to 1928. Operations began under Alitalia control in 1961, and the carrier
accumulated some 3,600 flight hours in its first year. For a time, the
airline also offered helicopter passenger service using a total of four
AB-47J Rangers, A102s, AB204s, and Sikorsky S61Ns.
To accommodate the country's need for smaller air transports, Alitalia
launched another company, ATI, to service domestic airports with short
runways in 1964. Operations using the Fokker F-27 focused on the smaller
islands of Southern Italy.
The network of routes continued to expand throughout the 1960s, reaching
fourth in the world for distance flown yearly. Total revenue and number of
passengers carried made the airline the twelfth largest in the world and
the third largest in Europe. The original British investment was returned
during this decade, and the airline became completely owned by Italian
Alitalia began adding DC-9s and the much larger DC-8 Super 62 airplanes to
the fleet in 1967. By the beginning of 1969, the only propeller airplanes
remaining in the fleet were the Fokker F-27s operated by ATI. The livery
still used today was adopted in 1970, the same year the first Boeing 747
was delivered to Alitalia. The first DC-10 arrived in 1973, joining the
747 on transatlantic flights connecting Rome with such destinations as
Boston, Chicago, Los Angeles, and New York. The airline updated its
short-to-medium fleet with 727-200 airplanes, the first of which arrived
The formation of Airbus, a new European airplane manufacturer, attracted
the airline's attention in the mid-1970s, and Alitalia purchased several
A300Bs. However, propelled in 1982 by a total of more than 10 million
passengers carried throughout its history, Alitalia expanded its fleet
with the McDonnell Douglas MD-80 in 1984. The airline eventually operated
the second-largest MD-80 fleet in the world. At approximately the same
time, Alitalia also acquired the several 747-200s, with some in the
Alitalia's strategy during the 1980s was to diversify in order to compete
effectively in a deregulated airline industry. The policy resulted in the
founding of such enterprises as Aermediterranea, a small airline servicing
national connections, and SIGMA, a tourist company. Ultimately, however,
diversification proved to be unsuccessful. Following a period of financial
losses, in 1996 Alitalia founded Alitalia Team, a low-cost, highly
competitive company that began divesting all business ventures not
directly involved with flight operations. The airline now focuses on
providing excellent passenger service at prices competitive in both its
domestic and international markets. In 1997, the airline founded Alitalia
Express, a regional low-cost carrier, and posted a profit for the year.
In an effort to strengthen its long-range fleet, the airline selected the
MD-11, a three-engine airplane capable of carrying nearly 300 passengers
more than 7,000 mi (12,000 km), in 1991. The A321, capable of carrying 187
passengers, was added to the medium-range fleet in 1994. The current fleet
consists of 144 airplanes--ten 747s, eight MD-11s, seventeen A-321s, six
767s, ninety MD-80s, six 767s, seventeen A320s, and thirteen ATR42s--that
fly more than 24 million passengers and 265,000 tons of freight each year
to some 66 countries around the world.