After seven decades of business, Italy’s flagship carrier, Alitalia, touched down at Fiumicino Airport in Rome for the very last time on October 14, 2021, leaving behind a storied past, marked by years of labor troubles and serial bankruptcies. From 1964 Pope Paul VI became the first Pope to leave Europe since 1809 and the first to travel by airplane, beginning a custom of papal voyages on Alitalia, serving as the Pope’s ‘’official airline.” Often referred to as Shepherd One, the airline’s characteristic red and green tail with its ‘Winged Arrow’ served as a setting for the pope’s arrival around the world and for a run of popes to follow.
On October 4, 1965, Pope Paul VI became the first sitting pope to visit the Western Hemisphere dedicating a whirlwind 14 hours to New York City. Disembarking from ‘Shepherd One’ to crowds of welcoming people and TV cameras as JFK International, the Pope said, “Greetings to you, America.” He then visited St. Patrick’s Cathedral, met President Lyndon Johnson, addressed the General Assembly at the U.N., attended a public Mass at Yankee Stadium, and visited the Vatican Exhibit at the World’s Fair in Flushing Meadows before returning to Rome by day’s end.
One day after Alitalia’s final flight, ITA Airways became Italy’s new flagship airline and is preparing to take the baton from Alitalia as the new official airline of the Pope on December 2, 2021, when Pope Francis sets off for a 3-day visit to Cyprus aboard ITA, before traveling to Greece for his first international flight since March 2021. The Pope will travel onboard an Airbus A320-200 with an ITA Airways crew consisting of three pilots and six cabin members. In a statement by ITA CEO Fabio Lazzerini, he said,
“It is an honor and nice satisfaction for us to accompany the Holy Father on his journey to Cyprus. We’re an organization that places sustainability on the middle of its technique and that is another reason to be blissful to move the Holy Father who consistently recollects these values in his phrases.”