A few weeks ago, ITA Airways, announced its frequent flyer program Volare and began offering a status match to elite members of other frequent flyer programs. ITA Airways is the Italian government’s newest attempt to fund a flag carrier after the “new Alitalia” from a few years ago finally went bankrupt.
It’s supposed to be set up for success in a way that Alitalia never was, shedding much of Alitalia’s bloated staff but also losing some of its most valuable assets in the process. Here’s what we know so far.
What is ITA Airways?
ITA Airways is the Italian government’s latest iteration of Alitalia after the “old Alitalia” (the “new Alitalia” from just a few years ago) was shut down earlier this year after being in bankruptcy since 2017.
Alitalia has had numerous iterations over the years as the Italian taxpayer footed the bill for bailout after bailout in the volatile Italian Aviation market. Qatar Airways’ Italian airline startup, Air Italy, which itself once announced grand ambitions, went bankrupt at the start of the pandemic.
The biggest difference between ITA Airways and the Italian government’s previous state-funded airlines is its name. ITA stands for will be ITA stands for Italia Trasporto Aereo. Despite winning the “auction” and securing the Alitalia brand, ITA will fly as ITA with its new livery.
The airline launched on October 15 with a semi-functional website and operational challenges. It’s since been confirmed that the airline will be taking Alitalia’s seat in the Sky Team alliance.
A lot is still unclear about what we should expect from ITA. Ben at One Mile At A Time has a summary of what we know and how the airline isn’t really positioned for success:
- ITA will receive a capital injection of well over a billion Euros over the next few years
- In part ITA will buy some of Alitalia’s assets, but the airline won’t buy Alitalia’s frequent flyer program (rather a new one will be created); this isn’t because Alitalia is trying to screw customers, but because the European Commission isn’t allowing Alitalia to participate in the open tender of Alitalia’s frequent flyer program
- ITA will grow slowly, and will initially operate a fleet of 52 planes (including just seven long haul planes), then in 2022 the airline will have 78 planes, and by 2025 the airline will have 105 planes
- ITA will only get 85% of Alitalia’s slot at Milan’s Linate Airport (LIN) and 43% of slots at Rome’s Fiumicino Airport (FCO)
- ITA will initially have under 3,000 employees, and that will grow to 8,600 employees by 2022 (up until recently Alitalia had around 10,000 employees)
- There had been talk of ITA potentially buying new planes, but it’s anyone’s guess how that plays out, and it doesn’t seem to be in the cards immediately
I’m not sure the Italian government or taxpayers are really winning here. Yes, Alitalia was a mess, but having to give up so many valuable slots at Italy’s biggest airports to competitors will make it even harder for the new airline to succeed.
ITA Airways Volare Frequent Flyer Program
As part of launching a new airline, ITA Airways introduced the Volare frequent flyer program. They needed to create a new program because, despite buying Alitalia’s brand and website, EU rules are blocking them from directly acquiring the Millemiglia frequent flyer program.
That said, the program is currently offering a (very easy) status match for elite members of Millemiglia and other programs through the end of November.
We really don’t know much about Volare beyond the very basic details on the website. It says that the program will have four stuatus tiers or “four exclusive clubs” as they describe it: Smart, Plus, Premium, and Executive. They don’t launch until December 31, 2021.
We don’t have much details beyond that. A benefits chart for each of the tiers hasn’t been published. We don’t know the mileage accrual policy or how membership in each tier will be achieved.
What we do know is that with ITA Airways joining the Sky Team alliance so presumably the status tiers will be matched with SkyTeam Elite or SkyTeam Elite Plus status.
SkyTeam Elite members get preferred seating, priority check-in, priority boarding, and extra baggage. SkyTeam Elite Plus members get all of that plus access to SKy Team lounges worldwide and priority baggage handling.
There’s more questions than answers right now about ITA Airways and its frequent flyer program, Volare. ITA Airways seems to just be the newest iteration of Alitalia, just smaller with fewer assets. Volare still hasn’t released much information about mileage earning, redemptions, or status requirements. That said, their status match promotion is probably worth taking advantage of if you’re eligible, it’s easy and probably worthwhile just for the Sky Team benefits.
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