Italy’s ITA Airways is one step closer to its goal of joining Star Alliance. While ITA Airways is presently a SkyTeam member, there had been talks of Lufthansa Group taking over the Italian carrier. Given that Lufthansa is in Star Alliance – and one of Star’s five founding airlines to boot – the acquisition of ITA would see the carrier shift allegiances.

One roadblock along the journey had been the approvals required from the European Commission. But as of this week, those permissions have come through. This gives Lufthansa Group the green light to acquire ITA Airways – and paves the way for ITA’s swap to Star Alliance.

Under the deal, ITA Airways will retain its own brand identity. It’s just that Lufthansa Group would ultimately own the airline. It’s a similar approach as taken by the group with Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and SWISS. Each airline still operates its own lounges and flies under its own IATA code. For ITA Airways, that means its flight numbers will still begin with ‘AZ’: a throwback to the days of Alitalia.

The approval from Brussels is excellent news for ITA Airways and Lufthansa and especially for all passengers flying to and from Italy. We look forward to welcoming ITA Airways and its outstanding employees as a new member of our airline family very soon. The decision is also a clear signal for strong air traffic in Europe, which can successfully assert itself in global competition.

– Carsten Spohr, CEO of Deutsche Lufthansa AG
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Lufthansa Group is ITA Airways’ path to Star Alliance

Lufthansa and ITA Airways currently operate as competitors. But that’s set to change within the fourth quarter of 2024. That’s when Lufthansa Group initially plans to buy 41% of ITA Airways. Later on – but no earlier than 2025 – Lufthansa Group plans a ‘subsequent acquisition of the remaining shares.’

All in all, the purchase will cost Lufthansa Group a cool €325 million (around AU$522 million). Like the group’s other full-service airlines – Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines and Brussels – ITA Airways would be sponsored into Star Alliance. Given an airline cannot belong to two global alliances at the same time, it would then depart from SkyTeam.

ITA Airways joining the Star Alliance family
From left to right: Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian Airlines, Brussels Airlines, Eurowings and ITA Airways.

While a firm date for the shift isn’t yet known, ITA Airways confirms it is ‘aiming to join Star Alliance in the near future.’ As part of the shift, ITA Airways will retire its current Volare frequent flyer program. Instead, the carrier will use Miles & More as its in-house rewards offering. This would ultimately give ITA Airways’ tiered members Star Alliance Gold status rather than SkyTeam Elite or Elite Plus recognition.

It’s fair to say that the swap between alliances may not occur on the same date as Lufthansa Group takes over ITA Airways. But even so, the airlines already have plans in place to make travel smooth in the interim. The companies advise that ‘from the first day after the closing … respective lounges will be mutually accessible.’

Members of Volare ‘will also be able to collect or use their miles with Miles & More from the first day after the closing.’ This highlights that Volare members won’t lose their hard-earned rewards. Instead, miles remaining in Volare would ultimately be transferred to Miles & More. The applicable conversion rate has not yet been published.

What ITA Airways’ switcheroo would mean for Australians?

Italy remains one of Europe’s more popular and mainstream holiday destinations. ITA Airways was born out of Italy’s failed national airline, Alitalia. Back in its day, Alitalia was a SkyTeam member and a partner of Qantas Frequent Flyer. It later swapped its Australian allegiances to Velocity Frequent Flyer before Alitalia subsequently went bankrupt. ITA Airways then took its place and assumed its own membership in SkyTeam.

This latest shift would see ITA Airways once again leave the past behind and find new friends: this time, in Star Alliance. Star Alliance doesn’t have an Australian-based partner, but flights can be booked through popular programs like Singapore Airlines KrisFlyer. This would ultimately enable Aussies to more easily book ITA Airways flights using miles earned in Australia.

KrisFlyer is a points transfer partner of most Australian card-based rewards programs. Virgin Australia Velocity Points can also be converted into KrisFlyer miles. Of course, assuming ITA Airways successfully joins Star Alliance, this opens the door for Star Alliance Gold members to enjoy benefits when flying with ITA. Perks include priority check-in, priority boarding and airport lounge access, among other benefits.

In Australia, the HSBC Star Alliance Credit Card offers a fast-track to Star Alliance Gold status and currently comes with a waiver of the first-year annual fee (a $450 saving). Eligible new cardholders who apply, are approved and spend $4,000 or more on eligible purchases within the first 90 days can get Star Alliance Gold for at least one year.

The news comes as SkyTeam prepares to poach one of Star Alliance’s founding members, SAS, following investment into SAS by SkyTeam’s Air France and KLM.

Also read: SkyTeam plans review of international-only lounge access policy

Images courtesy of Lufthansa Group and ITA Airways.

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SkyTeam’s ITA Airways inches closer to joining Star Alliance was last modified: July 4th, 2024 by Chris Chamberlin