History: It's beginnings traces back to 16 September 1946 in Rome, as a new airline is born as Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane. On May 5, 1947, a three-engined Fiat G-12 "Alcione" piloted by Virgilio Reinero takes off from Turin on a flight to Catania via Rome, marking the start of Alitalia’s activities. On 6 July, a Savoia Marchetti SM-95 named "Marco Polo" takes off on the Company’s first international flight, from Rome to Oslo. In March of the following year, a Lancastrian plane takes off to carry out the first intercontinental flight. The thirty-six hour haul followed the route Milan-Rome-Dakar-Natal-Rio de Janeiro-São Paulo-Buenos Aires.
Towards the end of 1949, the Company’s fleet is completely renewed with the arrival of four Douglas DC-4s, purchased from Pan American. The next year the first stewardesses take up their jobs, wearing uniforms designed by fashion stylists, the Fontana sisters. On 31 October 1957, the merger between Alitalia and LAI-Linee Aeree Italiane gives birth to Alitalia-Linee Aeree Italiane, the only Italian airline based at Rome’s Ciampino airport.
In 1960, the Company takes delivery of its first jets (DC-8 and Caravelle) and the number of passengers exceeds one million for the first time. Its base is moved from Ciampino to Fiumicino.
In 1969, Alitalia becomes the first European airline to have an all-jet fleet. On 5 June 1970, a Jumbo B-747, named “Neil Armstrong", enters service on the Rome-New York route. 1973 sees delivery of the three-engine DC10 used on intercontinental routes. In the same year, the Company clears the way to the Far East with the trans-Siberian route to Tokyo. During the first half of the 1980s, the first Mc Donnell Douglas MD-80 and Airbus A300/B4 aircraft are added to the fleet. In december 1991 the MD-11 aircraft enter the fleet. In 1994, Airbus A321 aircraft enter the fleet, with the latter immediately becoming instrumental in the development of medium-range routes. Moreover, the Company transports a record 20 million passengers.
In 1996, sees the creation of Alitalia’s first website. Alitalia Express, the Company’s operating arm for regional transportation, is set up just a year later in 1997. Malpensa airport, the Company’s new hub, opens in Milan in 1998. July 2001, Alitalia becomes a member of the SkyTeam alliance. A year later, the first B-777 aircraft, the world’s largest twinjet, joins the fleet.On 1 May 2005, following reorganisation of the Alitalia Group, Alitalia Servizi is set up to take over the Company’s business support activities. On 7 June 2006, the Company’s new website, www.alitalia.com, comes online.
In January 2010, Alitalia celebrated its first anniversary since the relaunch. It carried 22 million passengers in its first year of operations. In the years that followed the airline went through some more restructuring but union strikes, delays and poor reputation made the airline have heavy losses. It was looking desperately for a partner as the airline was at the edge of bankruptcy. Then a life-line came in 2014 when, Abu Dhabi-based UAE national airline Etihad Airways announced it was taking a 49% stake in Alitalia. On 1 January 2015, the new Alitalia was formed with the remaining 51% owned by Italian businesses previous to the merger.
Since then the airline has been growing, launching new routes and making more profitable routes with added frequencies or selected destinations revisions. It has had a strong campaign to improve it's quality and image and the alliance with Etihad allows now many more destinations to be reached from both Rome, Milan and Abu Dhabi. It's had a revised livery on it's planes ever since and made for a new smart airline with Italian flare!