ROME, Oct. 15 (Xinhua) -- Italy's new flagship air carrier ITA began operations Friday with an early-morning flight between the northern Italian financial capital of Milan and Bari, in the country's south, filling the gap left by 75-year-old carrier Alitalia that ceased operations the day before.
A last-minute deal between ITA and Alitalia means the name of the venerable airline that has carried tens of millions of passengers will live on.
According to media reports, ITA on Thursday paid 90 million euros (105 million U.S. dollars) for rights to Alitalia's brand and identity, down from the original 290 million euros asking price. That means ITA -- the name is an Italian acronym for Italian Air Transport -- will be allowed to use Alitalia's identity, Internet domain, livery, and uniforms indefinitely.
Despite the acquisition, ITA will remain legally separate from its predecessor in order to ensure it will not be liable to Alitalia's debts.
ITA, which is a fully-owned entity of the Italian government, starts out with a fleet of 52 aircraft serving 44 destinations. The numbers are set to increase to at least 105 aircraft and 74 destinations by 2025.
The company is already selling tickets connecting more than a dozen Italian cities, major European hubs including London and Paris, as well as long-haul routes connecting Rome to New York, Miami, Boston, and Los Angeles and between Milan and New York.
The company is also reportedly considering long-haul routes between Italy and Asian destinations including China, as well as Latin America and Africa.