Alitalia Airbus 320-200 EI-DTJ - Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways

MIAMI – Alitalia’s (AZ) proxy successor ITA is facing one more hurdle on its path toward starting operations on October 15: the London Heathrow (LHR)-Rome Fiumicino (FCO) slots.

In 2017, when AZ entered controlled administration, Luigi Gubitosi, the administrator in charge, decided to sell the last five sots AZ was holding at LHR as a desperate measure to get fresh cash. The slots were the remains of a previous sale that occurred in 2007 when the carrier, ready to absorb heavy łosses, sold a quarter of the slots at LHR, some of them at a record price.

The 2017 sale offer was quickly taken up by Etihad (EY), a former investor and partner of the carrier, under an agreement for a lease back to AZ of five slots for a period of five years at a cost of US$11,800 (€10,000) per day and per slot. The problem that now arises stems from the IATA “use it or lose it” rule for slots at busy airports where demand is high and offer low.

Notwithstanding a certain relaxation on the rule allowed by IATA to counter COVID-induced reductions in flights, EY has decided to recover the slots on lease to AZ giving as a justification the fact that if not used, they would be lost due to AZ’s failure to renew the existing agreement. As a consequence, the slots available to AZ, and consequently to ITA, will not go beyond the agreement expiry date of October 31.

Etihad Boeing 777-300 A6-ETO – Photo: Luca Flores/Airways

Solutions for ITA

The withdrawal of the agreement between EY and AZ puts ITA in a delicate position on a very important European route, linking FCO to LHR, with only two possible solutions: the first is to renegotiate an agreement with EY but at what price; the second is to go shopping for slots at LHR, a very rare and most coveted commodity.

And that it is not all, BREXIT also has some say in the hassles that ITA has to face. The slots between LHR and Milano-Linate (LIN) are also at risk after October 31 since European air transport rules do not apply anymore and a renegotiation is unavoidable.

Once again Murphy’s law is proving itself correct.

Article source: Il Sole 24 Ore, Breaking Latest News, ItalianInsider

Featured image: Alitalia Airbus 320-200 EI-DTJ. Photo: Fabrizio Spicuglia/Airways