ITA Airways became the 40th operator of the A350, Airbus’ advanced widebody, on Wednesday as it took delivery of the first aircraft in Rome.
The jetliner becomes the aircraft with the highest passenger capacity and autonomy of the Italian carrier, which chose not to keep the Boeing 777s that operated by Alitalia, its predecessor.
With 334 seats arranged in two classes, the first A350-900, registration, EI-IFA, belongs to the lessor ALAFCO, of which ITA has closed a deal for four aircraft – the company will also receive other aircraft from Air Lease Corporation, the first of which which recently made its maiden flight.
ITA will put the A350-900 on long-haul routes from June. Among the destinations chosen for the premiere are Los Angeles, Buenos Aires, São Paulo and Tokyo, with flights departing from Rome.
According to Airbus, ITA has leased a total of six A350s, among more than 50 aircraft already under contract. In addition, the new flag carrier has a firm order for 28 new jets from the European planemaker.
Three groups compete for the ITA
The entry into service of the A350 should take place at the same time that ITA Airways may have a new owner. According to Economy Minister Daniele Franco, the Italian government intends to sell part of the company’s shares to a private group by June.
Competing in this dispute is a consortium formed by Lufthansa and MSC, Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM in partnership with the US Certares fund and Indigo Partners, which controls several low-cost airlines.
The objective is to sell the controlling interest in ITA, keeping only a small portion of the company in the hands of the state.