September 14, 2008 / 3:48 PM / 10 years ago

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

ROME (Reuters) - Alitalia AZPIa.MI faced the risk of collapse on Sunday as the government sought a last-minute between a consortium of investors and unions.

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

- Alitalia was created in 1947; 50 years later its annual traffic was 24.5 million passengers with a fleet of 173 aircraft, it said on its website. “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. Its workforce numbers some 19,000, including workers on temporary contracts.

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

- The airline loses more than 2 million euros ($2.8 million) a day, according to latest available data — a three-month pre-tax loss of 215 million euros. Its net debt stood at almost 1.2 billion euros as of July.

- The government gave Alitalia an emergency loan of 300 million euros earlier this year to stop it going bust. The European Commission is investigating to see if that is illegal state aid under rules that ban governments from propping up their airlines in what is, in theory, a competitive environment.

- 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 August 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 on 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.

Reporting by Robin Pomeroy and Marie-Louise Gumuchian

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