Italy’s bankrupt national airline, Alitalia, made its final flight on Thursday night, marking the end of the 74-year-old carrier — the Pope’s favourite — and an end of an era for Italy.
There were some tears from cabin crew and a toast from pilots after Flight AZ1586, from Cagliari, Sardinia to Rome, landed shortly after 10pm.
The perpetually crisis-hit carrier, which has operated in the red for more than two decades, is being replaced by a new, slimmed-down state-owned entity called ITA.
It will fly to a handful of former destinations, focusing more on long haul and less on fiercely competitive domestic routes.
But it already looks remarkably similar to its defunct predecessor; on Thursday it purchased the Alitalia brand and website for 90 million euros.
The European Union has given Italy permission for a 1.35 billion-euro injection of government funding into the new carrier, which only plans to hire around a quarter of Alitalia’s 10,000-strong workforce.
In recent weeks, workers staged strikes and protests denouncing their treatment and what for many was just the final episode after years of crises, crippling industrial disputes and eye-watering losses.
Various attempts to refloat the carrier have resulted in the loss of vast sums of money, the equivalent of £6 per second for the past 23 years.
Far-right opposition party Brothers of Italy has blamed Prime Minister Mario Draghi’s government for the airline’s demise.
“Today we are losing another jewel, a company that has forged the history of our nation and … made us proud to be Italian,” said the leader Giorgia Meloni.