[COMMENTAIR by Ivog]: Lufthansa finally buys a stake in ITA Airways

It finally happened. After many attempts, Lufthansa has succeeded in acquiring a stake in ITA Airways. Initially, it will be a 41% stake, but later, Lufthansa could become the majority owner.

ITA Airways, formerly known as Alitalia, has had a problematic history. Alitalia was deeply in debt, changed owners multiple times, and received substantial state funding to stay afloat. Ultimately, Alitalia ceased operations, and ITA Airways was launched as its successor. Despite the rebranding from green and white to blue planes, ITA continues to struggle with profitability.

Lufthansa aims to turn ITA into a profitable company. ITA has already begun renewing its fleet, acquiring the latest aircraft such as the Airbus A350-900, A330-900, A320neo, and A220. While they still operate older generation aircraft, these will be retired within a few years, leaving ITA with a modern fleet.

Lufthansa Group

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With the entry of ITA into the Lufthansa Group, the group will gain a new hub in southern Europe. As the director of Lufthansa mentioned, this hub could facilitate connections to destinations below the equator, such as Africa, Asia, and South America. However, he only hinted at this potential, and the future development of ITA within the Lufthansa Group remains to be seen. A look at the map reveals Lufthansa’s strong position in central Europe, without any airlines located further west or east. This may soon change if Lufthansa considers acquiring TAP Air Portugal, which would provide a presence outside central Europe. First, however, they must integrate ITA into their system.

The ITA fleet is compatible with the Lufthansa Group fleet. ITA’s regional planes, like the Airbus A220s, align with Lufthansa’s plans to build its regional fleet around these aircraft, particularly for Swiss and Lufthansa City Airlines. Their narrow-body fleet is based on the Airbus A320 series, which all major airlines in the Lufthansa Group use. ITA’s wide-body fleet includes the Airbus A330-900 and Airbus A350-900. The Airbus A350-900 is a key aircraft for Lufthansa, and Swiss will also be adding it to their fleet soon. The only incompatibility lies with the Airbus A330-900, which no airline in the Lufthansa Group currently operates or has ordered. ITA will serve as a test case for this aircraft, providing valuable insights into its capabilities and potentially leading to future orders to replace the existing A330ceo aircraft. Another noteworthy aspect of ITA is their new A321neoLR, intended for routes to the Middle East. These aircraft feature a “real” business class with fully flat beds, making them suitable for long-haul flights. Lufthansa has not yet announced how it will incorporate the A321neo LR or XLR into its fleet, but we may see them utilized in the future.

When comparing the fleets of airlines within the Lufthansa Group and ITA, it’s evident that ITA, with its fleet of 96 aircraft, will rank second behind Lufthansa, which operates nearly 350 aircraft. Swiss, with 88 aircraft, is the closest in size to ITA, while Austrian (68 aircraft) and Brussels (44 aircraft) are significantly smaller in comparison.

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When examining the division of narrow-body and wide-body aircraft among carriers, Lufthansa stands out with 247 narrow-body aircraft, maintaining a significant lead. ITA follows in second place with 73 narrow-body aircraft. Swiss and Austrian are relatively close to ITA with nearly 60 narrow-body aircraft each, while Brussels trails with approximately thirty.

In terms of wide-body aircraft, Lufthansa also leads with 101 aircraft. Swiss surpasses ITA to take second place with 30 wide-body aircraft, whereas ITA holds third place with 23. Brussels and Austrian are closely matched with around ten and eleven wide-body aircraft respectively.

What is the current state of connectivity with Lufthansa hubs

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ITA currently operates two daily flights from Rome to Lufthansa’s main hubs in Frankfurt, Munich, Zurich, and Brussels. Vienna is the only hub without any ITA service, which is expected to change once ITA integrates into the Lufthansa Group. In contrast, Lufthansa operates six daily flights from Frankfurt and five from Munich to Rome. Swiss offers four flights from Zurich, Brussels Airlines provides three from Brussels, and Austrian Airlines operates just two flights.

Examining overall traffic between Rome and Lufthansa’s hubs, routes to Frankfurt, Munich, and Zurich see exclusive service from ITA and Lufthansa, with no other competitors. About 70% of traffic on the Brussels route is dominated by Ryanair, which operates one to two flights daily to Rome. The Rome-Vienna route faces intense competition from low-cost carriers (LCCs), with ITA absent, Austrian Airlines operating only two flights, and LCCs offering up to four flights daily.

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It is to be expected that the number of flights between hubs will increase, and ITA will certainly increase the number of flights from the mentioned two per day. The extent of this expansion will hinge on various factors such as strategic planning, available aircraft, the integration process dynamics, and market demand.

Star Alliance

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Although it hasn’t been officially confirmed yet, it’s highly likely that ITA will join the Star Alliance airline association, similar to other carriers within the Lufthansa Group. ITA will also integrate into the Miles & More passenger reward system. Significant changes are underway within the Star Alliance and SkyTeam alliances in Europe this year. Scandinavian airline SAS is acquiring a new minority owner, the Air France – KLM Group, prompting SAS to leave Star Alliance and join SkyTeam under its new ownership. This move will result in Star Alliance losing coverage in the Scandinavian countries. Currently aligned with SkyTeam, ITA will transition to Star Alliance, marking a strategic shift for both alliances. While these changes represent losses for the respective alliances in terms of network coverage, they also present opportunities for expansion and enhancement. The map of the Star Alliance will consequently evolve with the exit of SAS and the inclusion of ITA, highlighting the main hubs of its member airlines.


We are indeed entering an intriguing period, particularly in observing the developments of ITA and how Lufthansa Group airlines align with it. Lufthansa faces entry into a sizable yet competitive market, especially challenging with the strong presence of low-cost carriers that surpass ITA in strength. Lufthansa has previously implemented significant measures, even demanding substantial cuts across its carriers to achieve profitability. It remains to be seen how these strategies will fare with the addition of ITA to the group and navigating these new dynamics.

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