I’ve many fond recollections of household journeys to Italy that came about every summer season throughout my childhood. These summer season pilgrimages to go to household and pals additionally included connecting with the place of my dad and mom’ delivery in addition to seeing a number of the nation’s tales websites.
Visiting Vatican Metropolis for the primary time in 1990 (after I was 14) stays among the finest recollections. I’d go to there once more quite a few instances — together with as a information reporter — within the many years that ensued.
These New York-Rome journeys concerned flying with Alitalia, Italy’s nationwide service. The airline — recognized for its nearly-impeccable security report and generally appalling customer support — will formally shut on Oct. 15. The announcement, made this previous summer season, marks the tip of an period for an airline based in 1946. it additionally marked the tip of an period for my household, who have been loyal to this model to a fault.
Why is that this a subject for GetReligion?
The airline’s demise and the beginning of a new one named ITA is a enterprise story with a faith angle that too many information organizations ignored over the previous few weeks. There was loads of protection relating to ITA shopping for new planes, potential layoffs and Italian authorities subsidies that stored the airline afloat for many years.
That faith angle? You see, my household and I weren’t the one loyal Alitalia prospects over time. Essentially the most well-known has been the pope. It was in 1964, when Pope Paul VI traveled to Israel, when Alitalia grew to become the pontiff’s official airline.
Alitalia placed on loads of miles beneath the papacy of now-St. Pope John Paul II, who visited 129 international locations throughout his 27 years as head of the Roman Catholic church. The aircraft utilized by the pope — recognized within the press as “Shepherd One” as a technique to evaluate it to the president’s “Air Drive One” — continued for use by Pope Benedict XVI and now Pope Francis. It’s additionally aboard these flights that the pope holds a information convention and at all times makes information.
Alitalia and the papacy will perpetually be intertwined. Through the years, there was some excellent journalism achieved round how the pope travels and the comforts afforded to him by the Italian airline. The most effective articles on the topic was achieved in by Reuters’ longtime Vatican correspondent Philip Pullella in 2019.
Right here’s only a taste of what he wrote to indicate readers what occurs behind-the-curtain when a journalist routinely covers the pope:
Having achieved almost 140 journeys with three popes since 1982, I took it in my sleepy stride and began writing the day’s first story on the bus to the airport.
There is no such thing as a devoted “Vatican One” papal aircraft. The 82-year-old chief of the world’s 1.3 billion Roman Catholics makes use of chartered flights and more often than not press and pope fly collectively.
Again within the Eighties, we bashed away on our typewriters and puffed away on our cigarettes. Once we flew Alitalia, the crew used to offer us 10 packs every.
Right this moment, the aircraft is smoke-free and there’s no clickety clack. The VAMPS – the Vatican Accredited Media Personnel, who put on that acronym in massive letters on accreditation badges round our necks – take the again.
A fast go searching Google — the place many journalists begin their preliminary analysis right into a topic — and I stumbled upon a narrative posted in 2019 by The Factors Man, one among many blogs and web sites devoted to the journey trade.
This submit did an exquisite job giving readers historic background and simply how Alitalia operates these papal flights:
Opposite to different governments, which personal plane that shuttle heads of state round, the Vatican doesn’t personal a jet that may fly lengthy distances. Since Pope Paul VI, Italian flag service Alitalia has been tasked with ferrying the pope on his missions out of Rome (extra afterward how he will get again.)
These Alitalia flights carrying the Pope all get a particular flight quantity, AZ4000. Generally it additionally will get the decision signal Shepherd One, for instance when Francis visited america in 2015.
Flight numbers 4000 and above are reserved for particular, non-scheduled Alitalia flights. For instance, when the 777-200ER that had flown Francis to Abu Dhabi returned to Rome empty, it bore the flight quantity AZ8033.
When flying longer distances, Alitalia assigns its widebody jets to the Papal mission, both the A330-200 or the 777. Upon touchdown, pilots open the cockpit home windows and show the flag of the nation being visited, alongside the Vatican’s normal.
On shorter hops, the Pope flies on an Alitalia single-aisle Airbus jet, just like the A320 or A321. And to navigate even smaller distances, the Pope travels in a helicopter operated by the Italian Air Drive, most steadily an Agusta Westland AW139 additionally utilized by Italian authorities officers.
In 2014, Alitalia put out a press launch celebrating the airline’s 50-year collaboration with the Holy See. The exhibit, at Rome’s Leonardo da Vinci Airport, featured images from Alitalia’s archives in addition to those from L’Osservatore Romano, the official Vatican newspaper.
Journey blogs weren’t shy about making the connection between Alitalia and the papacy, one thing many mainstream information organizations ignored of their enterprise protection. Journey Pulse was on the story and made the connection between the chapter and its historical past with the papacy.
Lacking from a lot of the information protection surrounding Alitalia’s chapter was references to the pope and what’s going to he do subsequent. I spent a lot of August studying the U.S. press about Alitalia and being annoyed on the absence of any context relating to how Pope Francis will journey after this month. It’s fairly dangerous once you get scooped by a bunch of journey blogs.
Crux, which hardly ever disappoints, addressed the matter in an Aug. 24 submit beneath the headline, “This fall, papal journey will change with closure of pope’s favourite airline.” Crux, nevertheless, isn’t a secular information web site. They concentrate on Catholic information and canopy the Vatican in addition to the church within the U.S. and all over the world. it’s no shock that they might cowl the Alitalia story with a watch on the pope.
That is how the piece ends:
As of as of Oct. 15, 2021, ITA flights might be out there for buy, bringing new administration and a brand new brand, in addition to a brand new sense of company hope after Alitalia’s years-long wrestle for survival, costing the Italian authorities some 7.4 billion euros between 1974-2014.
ITA will initially begin smaller than Alitalia, dropping to simply 60 plane as a substitute of 92, and solely 5,000 staff as a substitute of 11,000. Nevertheless, it’s projected that a number of thousand extra former Alitalia employees might be employed by ITA in 2022, relying on how enterprise goes.
The Vatican has not responded to a Crux request for touch upon whether or not the pope plans to journey with ITA sooner or later, together with his upcoming November go to to Glasgow for the COP26 UN local weather summit.
Even a enterprise story can have a faith angle. Alitalia’s demise is an excellent instance of this. The Vatican will, in some unspecified time in the future, need to make an announcement relating to the pope’s future plans and what airline he’ll take.
Alitalia has a really particular place in my coronary heart. The papacy can also be a vital a part of Alitalia’s historical past.
FIRST IMAGE: Drawn from Alitalia’s official web site