ROME, Oct. 14 (Xinhua) -- Italy's flagship airline Alitalia operated its final flight on Thursday, a day before being replaced by a new national company.
Departing from Cagliari, Sardinia, and landing at Rome's Fiumicino airport in the evening, Alitalia's last flight put an end to a 74-year-long history that has seen both great success and serious financial troubles.
Founded in 1946 as a national airline, Alitalia started operating domestic flights in May 1947, carrying an average of 10,000 passengers per year.
It developed in a relatively short time, and by 1957 was one of the world's 12 largest airline companies, with a fleet of 37 aircraft and 3,000 employees. By 1960, when it was the official carrier of the Rome Olympic Games, the company was transporting up to one million people per year.
After strengthening its fleet with larger aircraft in the 1980s, for the next decade it carried an average of 25 million passengers annually.
However, the state-owned company has long been in financial trouble, and has always been bailed out by the Italian government.
Although direct public aid was stopped by the EU in 2006, Alitalia still received a type of public aid through emergency loans.
In 2014, 49 percent of the company was purchased by Etihad Airways -- the United Arab Emirates' national airline -- in order to save it from bankruptcy. Other investment deals followed, but failed, leaving the company in financial trouble.
It was finally put into state administration in 2017, and kept operating mainly through the injection of public money. However, the coronavirus pandemic dealt Alitalia its final blow, despite an injection of capital worth some 1.35 billion euros (1.56 billion U.S. dollars) that was allowed by the European Commission since it was considered in line with market conditions.
Earlier this year, Alitalia announced it would stop selling tickets by Aug. 25, while waiting for its successor ITA (Italian Airline Transport) to be launched.
ITA will start operating on Oct. 15, as agreed between the Italian government and European authorities earlier this year.
According to its industrial plan for 2021-2025, the airline will start operating with a fleet of 52 aircraft serving 44 destinations. By 2025, it is expected to cover 74 routes.