MIAMI – Much as it has in the past, Alitalia (AZ) will always continue to make news headlines even when it is on the brink of collapse. Reincarnated several times over the past few decades, Alitalia is currently restructuring in bankruptcy, and there are a lot of moving parts.
Chief among them are finding potential suitors to reinvest in the company, which has garnered lukewarm attention from those who realized that previous resuscitation efforts from well-endowed carriers like Etihad Airways of Abu Dhabi have been unsuccessful.
However, one bright spot among the list of exception investors is the HNA Group of China, which has stakes in Brazil’s Azul, Australia’s Virgin Australia, Portugal’s TAP and Ghana Air. Turkish Airlines has also expressed an interest in acquiring Alitalia, per a story published in Turkish media outlets on June 7, 2017.
The Italian government has agreed to a €600 million bridge loan to keep Alitalia in the skies for six months. Alitalia has been placed into special administration since May after its employees voted against a labor agreement that was needed in order to implement a turnaround plan.
Special commissioners asked global airlines and investors to submit proposals of interest by June 5, and allegedly received some form of interest from 32 carriers. More information is expected to be revealed sometime after mid-June.
However, the primary opinion, according to news outlets, appears to be that airlines are whetting their appetites for Alitalia’s assets, rather than for equity in the carrier itself. Lufthansa has said it will consider selling off its fleet under new ownership. Alitalia currently owns only 11 of 100 aircraft on its fleet, according to CAPA.
Ryanair is taking a more creative approach: proposing to use its short-haul network to feed Alitalia’s long-haul traffic, stating that it could deploy up to 20 aircraft at two weeks’ notice this summer if Alitalia were to cut capacity (presumably short-haul), according to Reuters.
In the meantime, however, Alitalia will continue flying through the fall, and there are some commercial developments that will be encouraging to watch, such as:
Delivery of a maiden 777-300(ER) in September 2017
Alitalia will place its Boeing 777-300(ER) into service on September 18, 2017, operating from Rome to Buenos Aires on 3 of 7 weekly frequencies, per Routes Online. New York will also see the 777-300(ER) commence on a once-per-week basis, initially, starting on September 24, 2017. All of these adjustments, of course, are subject to change.
Per Air Fleets, Alitalia has 11 777-2oo(ER)s in service, with an average age of 14.14 years. These are used to fly from its Roma hub to Santiago de Chile, Mexico City, Los Angeles, Rio de Janeiro, Sao Paulo, New York and Tokyo-Narita.
It also has 14 Airbus A330-200 planes, with an average age of 8.09 years, which operate from Roma to Abu Dhabi, Havana, Seoul, Tehran, Toronto, New York, Miami, Chicago O’Hare, Beijing, and Boston, as well as Milan to Abu Dhabi, New York, and Tokyo-Narita. Also, it operates a 777 service from Milan to Buenos Aires.
The sole 777-300(ER) will feature 30 seats in its new Magnifica Business Class, 24 seats in Premium Economy, and 328 seats in Economy.
Alitalia to Delhi-Indira Gandhi Airport (IGIA)
Alitalia will resume service to New Delhi on October 30, 2017.
The carrier last served India before its 2009 “re-birth” when it downsized its long-haul network. The airline will plug into Jet Airways’ network in Delhi but will compete alongside Air India, which offers thrice-weekly flights to Roma.
The Italian carrier will operate Delhi on a daily basis using an Airbus A330-200. The carrier also intends to launch a new service to Maldives.
Extension of Los Angeles from seasonal to year-round
Los Angeles will operate 3-times per week through the winter season, which will be a departure from the current norm of operating the route only during the summer months. The flight will be seasonally suspended between January 15 and March 6, 2018.
Its Roma-Mexico City service will also be temporarily suspended between January 15 and March 5, 2018.
Increasing frequencies between Roma and Sao Paulo
During the Northern Winter 2017/2018 season, Alitalia will increase capacity between Roma and São Paulo from daily to 10 weekly.
However, it remains to be seen whether these adjustments will be sustainable. Alitalia, ultimately, is on its remaining lifeline: if the carrier cannot untangle itself from its internal woes, particularly on the labor front and its legacy of dependency on governments or deep-pocketed investors, then the next step will inevitably be liquidation.
There are only so many times in which a carrier can resemble the walking dead until it is ultimately fully acquired or split into pieces that are sold off separately. If a Middle East giant carrier admits that it can no longer throw good money after bad, then the possibilities are extremely limited.