Farnborough Air Show

ITA Airways On Course as Italy's New National Airline

 - July 20, 2022, 9:32 AM
ITA Airways' A350, the 'Enzo Bearzot,' on display at the Farnborough Airshow (Photo: Peter Shaw-Smith)

With new-generation aircraft expected to account for 75 percent of the fleet by 2025, a commitment to Airbus’s so-called sustainability manifesto, and the signing of an eVTOL agreement with the OEM in April, Italy’s new national carrier, ITA (Italia Trasporto Aereo) Airways, looks poised to put the Alitalia debacle firmly in Italy’s past.

At the Farnborough Airshow on Tuesday, CEO Fabio Lazzerini underlined the state-owned airline’s success in turning profitable in June and called the A350 on static display at Farnborough, dubbed "Enzo Bearzot," the "best looking plane" at the event.

The airline launched operations on Oct. 15, 2021, with the support of the Italian government and other institutions, including the Italian Civil Aviation Authority (ENAC). Although Lazzerini clearly sees profitability as important, he provided little detail to back up his statement. “We generated the first profit [in] June,” he said. “Of course, it’s a little bit too early to say we are a profitable airline, but at least we managed to see the first month of profit. We are generating cash in excess of more than 300 percent of what was budgeted for in the first half.”

ITA got the green light on its business plan from the European Commission on July 15, 2021, obtained certification as an airline on August 17, and, two months later, started operating 52 aircraft. “We moved from a start-up of five people to 2,500 people quite quickly,” he said.

Airbus’s "technical engineering supremacy" is key for the airline, Lazzerini said, but fuel costs have soared for its all-Airbus fleet of more than 60 aircraft. “Fuel is normally the second-largest expense on the balance sheet," he explained. "Today, it is number one. It’s even bigger than employee costs because of the current situation. Operating efficient aircraft is not only good for the environment, but also for our balance sheet.”

By 2025, the CEO said the average age of its fleet will reach six years and two months. “It is going to be the greenest fleet in Europe, the youngest fleet in Europe, make no mistake,” he said. “There’s no other airline who can beat us because orders are already placed. Those are orders which are committed and there’s no other airline which will have this component of new-generation aircraft in the fleet.”

ITA became the first Italian A350 operator in May. Airbus said it firmed an order for 28 aircraft—seven A220s, 11 A320neos, and 10 A330neos—in December. An Airbus official yesterday said the orders had increased to 32—eight A220s, eight A320s, eight A330s, and eight A350s. In April, the OEM and the airline agreed to collaborate to identify “strategic use cases” for urban air mobility (UAM) in Italy.

Alitalia filed for bankruptcy in 2017, after UAE airline Etihad ended its funding of the airline. Last year, AIN reported that the European Commission was investigating state support granted to the defunct airline of around €1.3 billion.

Lazzerini said both passengers and employees are crucial to the service industry. “We cannot deliver good service to customers if we’re not good with our employees,” he said. “We ended the first half of the year with a net promoter score (NPS) showing customer satisfaction at 37. The industry average in Europe is 22 for full-service carriers and 20 for local carriers.”

NPS is an industry metric often linked to the revenue potential of a company’s product or service.

Sport is another ITA theme, with the main blue aircraft livery mirroring the colors of the Italian national soccer team, the Azzurri, four-time winner of the World Cup. After success in 1934 and 1938, Enzo Bearzot was the coach to mastermind Italy’s capture of the 1982 trophy, hence the name of the A350 at the airshow, while another A350 is dubbed the "Marcello Lippi," in homage to the manager who gained immortality by winning it all for Italy in 2006.

“We love competition,” Lazzerini said. “We want to beat our rivals in the field of service, putting the customers at the center of our philosophy, at the center of our operations, and to be completely driven by the value we deliver to them.”