Alitalia was established on 16 September 1946 as Aerolinee Italiane Internazionali, more commonly known as Alitalia, an Italian portmanteau of the words ali (wings) and Italia (Italy). It started operations on 5 May 1947, in which year it carried over 10,000 passengers. The inaugural flight was with a Fiat G-12 Alcione, piloted by Virginio Reinero from Turin to Catania and Rome. The first international flight left a year later, travelling between Milan and cities in South America. On 31 October 1957 Alitalia merged with Linee Aeree Italiane and took on the name of Alitalia Linee Aeree Italiane. Alitalia is owned by the Italian Ministry of the Treasury (49%), other shareholders, including employees (49%) and Air France-KLM (2%). President George W. Bush walks the red carpet with Pope Benedict XVI. Behind is "Shepherd One" a specially dedicated plane for the Pope belonging to Alitalia.
President George W. Bush walks the red carpet with Pope Benedict XVI. Behind is "Shepherd One" a specially dedicated plane for the Pope belonging to Alitalia. By the 1990s, Alitalia was carrying 25 million passengers annually. In 1997 it set up a regional subsidiary Alitalia Express and in 2001 became a member of the SkyTeam Alliance.
In November 2003 Alitalia announced that it would cut 2,700 jobs over the next three years to prepare the airline for a merger with Air France and KLM. In April 2004 Alitalia acquired the bankrupt regional airline Gandalf Airlines to gain additional slots at several European airports, mainly in Milan (Linate) and Paris (Charles De Gaulle). Alitalia employed 18,182 staff as of March 2007. Typically, the Pope flies on a chartered Alitalia Jet. The Pope's flight is often nicknamed "Shepherd One" by the press.
Alitalia is the national airline of Italy with its headquarters in Rome. Alitalia’s main base is Malpensa International Airport, Milan, with a hub at Leonardo Da Vinci International Airport, Rome. In Europe, the Company serves 63 airports with 1,347 weekly flights. In the rest of the world, Alitalia planes take off and land at 22 airports with 124 flights every week. Since 2001, Alitalia has been a member of the SkyTeam alliance whose members include some of Europe’s and the world’s leading companies – AeroMexico, Aeroflot, Air France, KLM, Continental, CSA Czech Airlines, Delta, Korean and Air Northwest - and whose vast network provides services to 728 destinations in more than 130 countries.