FACTBOX-"Cursed" Alitalia, Pope's airline, on the ropes

Sept 18 (Reuters) - An Italian consortium on Thursday withdrew its offer to bid for Alitalia AZPIa.MI after union opposition, raising the prospect of the airline's collapse. [ID:nLI475291]

Here are some key facts about Italy’s flag carrier:

- Alitalia was created in 1947; 50 years later it flew 24.5 million passengers annually in a fleet of 173 aircraft. “Ali” is Italian for wings.

- It now has weekly flights to 25 Italian airports, 45 in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East and 14 in the rest of the world. It has some 19,000 workers, including those on temporary contracts.

- The Italian state has a 49.9 percent stake; its publicly traded shares were suspended in June.

- The airline loses more than 2 million euros ($2.8 million) a day and had a three-month pre-tax loss of 215 million euros. Its net debt was almost 1.2 billion euros as of July.

- An emergency government loan of 300 million euros earlier this year is being investigated by the European Commission to determine if it constituted illegal state aid.

- Alitalia last reported a profit in 2002, only because Dutch airline KLM paid 200 million euros to break an alliance.

- The airline sought bankruptcy protection on Aug. 29 and bankruptcy commissioner Augusto Fantozzi is in charge of overseeing the latest rescue plan or winding the company up.

- When Pope Paul VI became the first pope to fly in a plane, in 1964, he flew Alitalia. Pope Benedict left Rome on a chartered Alitalia flight for France last Friday and said he was praying for the airline.

- Former chairman Maurizio Prato called the company "cursed", saying only an exorcist could save it after negotiations with Air France-KLM AIRF.PA collapsed in April.

Soures: Industry data, Alitalia Website, Reuters (Reporting by Robin Pomeroy and Marie-Louise Gumuchian; Editing by David Cowell)