MIAMI – According to the European Union, the Alitalia (AZ) brand should not be kept by the new company, as it is an emblematic indicator of continuity.
After 75 years, the Alitalia brand is finally coming to an end. AZ has endured 11 years of turbulent private management and three failed restructuring attempts. The new airline ITA stands for Italy Air Transport (Italia Trasporto Aereo) and will begin operation sometime this year.
A Public Affair
However, the Italian government is now seeking to nationalize and relaunch the ailing flag carrier after the coronavirus crisis scuppered plans to sell it.
“The Alitalia brand should not be retained by the new company, since it is an emblematic indicator of continuity,” the European Union said in the letter published by L’Espresso.
The letter, dated January 8, also asks Rome to launch an “open, transparent, non-discriminatory and unconditional tender” to shed Alitalia assets, rejecting the idea that the old carrier could sell its belongings to the new company in a private negotiation.
A Commission representative said the EU executive had no comment on the press report, that the EU is in contact with the Italian authorities on the matter and cannot comment on ongoing discussions.
Parts Sold Separately
The EU can block the injection of €3bn earmarked by the Italian government for the new company, thwarting Rome’s ambitions for the airline.
Furthermore, “the new company should not retain the combined aviation, ground handling, and maintenance businesses,” the EU competition watchdog is quoted as saying in the letter. Brussels suggests that the ground-handling and maintenance businesses should be sold separately to a third party.
The spin-off of the old Alitalia, which employs more than 11,000 workers in total, is a political hot potato for the Italian government because it would mean job cuts for employees outside the aviation business.
“We are like a start-up company that takes its first step, like a hiker who wants to get to the top but may have to change its path several times,” Lazzerini told a press call to present the 2021-2025 business plan.
Lazzerini, who served as managing director at Gulf airline Emirates in Italy before moving to AZ in 2017, said that the new carrier will start with 52 planes and up to 5,500 staff, nearly half the levels of the old Alitalia.
The airline’s re-launch is foreseen having:
- 5 Embraer E190 as regional aircraft
- 40 Airbus A319-A320 as medium to short-range aircraft
- 5 Boeing 777-200ER
- 1 Boeing 777-300ER (the famous EI-WLA, which several times seemed to be returned to the lessor company).
All these aircraft are already supplied to the company under special administration, which NEWCO would rent, pending the renewal of the fleet scheduled for 2022-2023, with the purchase of new Boeing 787-8s & 787-9s due to the greater cargo loading capacity. Alitalia would be inclined to purchase Boeing because that a part of the plane is built in Italy, in the Leonardo plants in Puglia.
For over ten years, the former Finmeccanica between Foggia and Grottaglie has been building the horizontal stabilizer and the central and center-rear sections of the fuselage. Buying Dreamliners would have a positive impact on the national economy. The airline should opt for the dual 787-8 and 787-9 models: the former has a list price of 215 million.
Behind the scenes, however, sources claim that Airbus is committed to snatching the long-haul contract from Boeing by offering the A330neo and A350. But to win on this front too – they admit – the European giant should offer the aircraft with discounts of 65-70%, in short, at bargain prices. Almost.
The industrial plan, however, aims at maximum flexibility; the goal is to double the number of aircraft by 2026, bringing them to 104 and therefore also increasing the number of employees. On their part, the Flight Crew would leave in April with a unified employment contract, no longer distinguished being hired by Alitalia or the regional CityLiner division.
As the Alitalia brand starts to fade into ITA, it will be interesting to see where they take the new brand. After years of mis management and many owners will ITA become a successful state owned airline or will it turn into another Air India (AI) or South African Airways.
Featured image: Andrea Ongaro/Airways