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I bet that if you think about Alitalia, the first word you’d say would be failure.
And you wouldn’t even be really far from the truth, looking at the current situation of what is set to become the Italian’s national carrier.
To understand how the Italian’s main airline have gone so bad in the last few years, we have to jump back directly to 2008, when Alitalia, not in its greatest times, was about to be purchased by the Air France-KLM group.
This might have been a brilliant move, both from the company’s and from the government’s point of view.
As you all know, the Italian society didn’t become part of the French-Dutch holding.
This because the elections were imminent in Italy, and the candidate who was quite likely to win them (Silvio Berlusconi) didn’t ensure that the offer would have been accepted in case of his victory.
Well, useless to tell what happened, because I’m sure you heard at least once about Berlusconi, he’s famous all over the world.
In all these years lots of things happened to Alitalia.
In 2014 Etihad decided to join Alitalia buying its 49%, but just two years (in 2017) after the introduction of the new logo and livery Alitalia filed for special administration procedure.
During the last three years many groups tried to acquire the company, but it’s not easy as you may think.
Alitalia has lots of different departments, and some of them are completely useless if you plan to relaunch the airline to make it one of the best in Europe.
So, particularly other airlines like Lufthansa, were interested only in some parts of Alitalia, without having to buy the company as a whole.
But many labor unions, and ultimately the government, rejected this hypothesis and forced any interested society in acquiring Alitalia entirely.
As lots of different businesses, the aviation industry is struggling to resist to this emergency, and many airlines already planned reductions of fleet, including early retirement of older aircrafts, and destinations, even when the pandemic will already belong to the past.
The drastic collapse in demand which hit every airline in Europe, has taken its toll in Alitalia’s situation.
At the moment there are no airlines interested in buying a company which has been struggling for ages, so the Italian airline was everyday closer to file for bankruptcy.
In some countries this wouldn’t be a big deal, in the end it’s just an airline, and sometimes it’s better to start a company from scratch instead of keeping alive a business that is not generating any profit.
But in Italy we love Alitalia as much as we love pasta, pizza and the Coliseum.
That’s why the government has decided to save Alitalia and to acquire it for an amount of approximately €500.000.000, saving it from a now certain collapse.
Apparently, Alitalia will follow the way of the other European airlines, reducing its fleet’s size, personnel and destinations.
To give you an idea of how big the reduction will be, Alitalia is likely to jump back to 1957 with 25-30 aircrafts and about 3000 employees.
Not later than 15 years ago the company featured between 160 and 185 aircrafts and 20000 employees.
The principal aspect that worries labor unions is the haste with the new-co is going to be formed.
It’s right to aim for the shortest time possible as the resources are about to finish, but the elaboration of a valid plan to “make Alitalia great again” should require way more than simply one month.
One aspect to consider is the interest of Gérman Efremovich, former Avianca’s president, to join the new-company in cooperation with the government.
But his interest is likely to remain so, at least for the moment.
Some thoughts from an Italian avgeek
Honestly, I’d have sold to Lufthansa immediately.
Not only because Lufthansa is an example of successful airline itself, but mainly because they have done a wonderful job to make good airlines out of failing ones, like Swiss.
And it’s just a foolish move to force any company to buy Alitalia as a whole, because it’s like trying to make a paper plane flying with stones holding it down.
The first thing I’m hoping to see, is an airline that doesn’t compete with the Italian’s railway system which is the best choice to connect cities like Rome and Florence together, and it’s way cheaper than an Alitalia flight.
The new-co has to aim for destinations that will allow the airline to generate profit and, consequently, also the fleet must be re-sized smartly.
No-one has ever pretended to conquer the world with 30 Embraers.