You wouldn’t invest them in Alitalia, would you?
First of all I want to make it clear: as a student pilot I’m happy as long as an airline stays alive, both for the employees involved and for the future job opportunities.
In the middle of one of the worst economical crisis induced by a pandemic which, despite the lockdown, has brought Italy to its knees, Alitalia kept flying its jets, including the 777s and the 330s, in and out of Rome.
Basically, they were the only airline offering a passenger service between the main Italian destinations, along with repatriation flights operated also by other airlines.
In our editorial written earlier in March, we were quite sure of the destiny of the Italian company, which was due to be nationalized after receiving between €500 and €600 millions in state aid to face the reduction of demand that we all should be aware of at this point.
That was the old story, because you would think that €600 millions are a good amount of money to acquire an airline due to collapse. In this case, I’m sorry to say that you’re wrong.
The ultimate law decree
As the country is preparing to reopen the critical businesses after the long lockdown, the government is working on a complex law decree which should be almost complete and will be named “relaunch“.
The name is justified by the purpose of relaunching the economy, even though we all know that it’s going to take a while to get out of this crisis.
In this law decree you will never read the word “Alitalia“.
Now you can think:”If it doesn’t mention Alitalia, why Tommaso decided to involve this strange law decree?”.
You miss a piece of the puzzle, and it’s my fault, I should’ve said that earlier.
In Italian politics you are not allowed to pronounce, write or even think about the word “Alitalia”.
When we have to refer to Alitalia, we call it by name only if we are discussing among friends.
This should be already clear, but I’ll make an example.
When you talk to a friend about someone he/she knows, you can say the name and you’ll be understood.
Otherwise, you start describing who you’re thinking about like:tall, blonde, brown eyes, wears glasses…“, same as if you were playing “Guess Who?“.
“An airline with the colors of the Italian flag on the tail of its aircraft, with the hub in Rome Fiumicino…“.
And in the law decree I mentioned above you will read that the €3.000.000.000 are allocated “to establish an airline which will be owned entirely by the Ministry of Economy“.
This is a nice attempt to make the name “Alitalia” sound longer, isn’t it? Big amount of money, big name.
At this stage its clear that the government is going to acquire the whole Alitalia’s business to try and make it a profitable and competitive airline, which has been, for too long, obscured by the low cost carriers offering the same national connections for a much cheaper fare. Will they succeed in that?
I will always remember what one of my favorite Formula 1 drivers, Sebastian Vettel, said some time ago:”I’ve got two balls, but none of them is made of crystal“.
I’m just borrowing his quote to say, in a much more direct way, that nobody can foresee the future of an airline in normal times, let alone now that we are in the most unforeseeable situation.
So, I’ll just base my conclusions on the recent Alitalia’s history.
It’s been more than ten years since Alitalia hasn’t been sold to AirFrance-KLM, which would have been, looking at the current state of the company, a wise choice.
And, moreover, Alitalia has been partially sold to Etihad some years later, but the ending has been, usually, the same: special administration keeping the airline active with state aids looking for new investors.
That said, I wouldn’t be surprised at all if in five years we’ll be making another effort to keep Alitalia running, unless the business model doesn’t radically change.
As I already said, No-one has ever pretended to conquer the world with 30 Embraers.
I need to explain another thing. No political party has ever disagreed in saving Alitalia.
Alitalia for politicians it’s like pasta for common people, everybody agrees on it.
Don’t be fooled by the fact that, whenever the time will come, who’s not governing today will win the elections and if at that time Alitalia will be starving once again, they’ll say that they didn’t agree on this ultimate attempt to save it, but they’ll give it another try.
So this editorial, as you can see, has barely nothing to do with politics, except the fact that politics is literally buying Alitalia, this is the interesting bit.
In our older article we reported the interest of Gérman Eferomovich, the former Avianca’s president, who’s still willing to get involved into the “new Alitalia” focusing his attention on long-range operations.
His controversial history derived by the default of Avianca Brasil and the absorption of Avianca by United and Copa (which lead to his dismissal from the board) has never really convinced the Italian authorities, but in the last hours he manifested, once again to the Ministry of Economics and to Alitalia’s commissioner, his interest in buying a consistent part of Alitalia.