Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA) may not be flying yet, but it is committing to at least 59 new Airbus jets for its future fleet.
The new Italian carrier, which replaces Alitalia when it launches on October 15, has signed a memorandum of understanding with Airbus for 28 aircraft and with Air Lease Corporation for another 31 aircraft, ITA said on Thursday. The Airbus commitment includes seven A220 and 11 A320neo-family aircraft, and 10 A330neos. The ALC commitment includes 15 A220s, two A320neos, nine A321neos and five A330-900s, according to the lessor.
In addition, ITA plans to lease some 56 aircraft of the 105 planes that it aims to operate by 2025. This includes adding the Airbus A350 to its fleet from an undisclosed lessor. The airline will launch with 52 former Alitalia jets.
The selection of Airbus for ITA’s fleet needs was widely expected. The airline outlined plans to select a “single supplier” of aircraft in its business plan in July. And, given that Alitalia’s fleet is almost entirely Airbus save for several Boeing 777s, an ITA order was considered the European airframer’s to lose. The 777s may not even transfer to ITA with, for example, the airline planning to operate only A330s on flights to the U.S. from October — whereas Alitalia operates both A330s and 777s today.
ITA faces a precarious future despite its fleet plans. Discounters Ryanair and Wizz Air have used the Covid-19 crisis to expand their presence in Italy. Both have added new bases and expanded flight options throughout the country. And EasyJet has outlined growth plans that prioritize growth at Milan Malpensa and other key European airports. In addition, as a condition to its formation out of the assets of Alitalia, ITA was forced to divest slots at key airports, including Milan Linate and Rome Fiumicino.
And ITA still has many “i’s” to dot and “t’s” to cross in its plan. The carrier has yet to join a major alliance or select a strategic partner, though Italian daily Corriere Della Sera has reported that talks are underway with both Delta Air Lines and Lufthansa. The airline has said that selecting a partner is an important part of its strategy. Alitalia is a member of the SkyTeam Alliance and was previously part of the Air France, Delta, KLM and Virgin Atlantic joint venture between Europe and the U.S.
This is not to mention its name. The “ITA” label may prove to be just a placeholder as the carrier bids on the Alitalia name and brand. Bidding opened at €290 million ($335 million) earlier in September with the auction set to conclude on September 30.
Many of ITA’s 59 new aircraft will replace older models, most of which will be inherited from Alitalia. The airline targets 70 percent of its 2025 fleet being new generation aircraft, like the A220 and A330neo.
Alfredo Altavilla, executive chairman of ITA, said in a statement that the deals “jumpstart our business plan aiming at achieving our targets of a new environmental-friendly fleet with significantly lower operating and leasing costs.”
ITA expects the first new delivery from Airbus in the first quarter of 2022, and the ALC aircraft from the second half of that year. Deliveries will continue through 2025.
Story updated with details of the ALC lease agreement.