Is there a future for ITA (formerly Alitalia)?
On the 15th of October, Alitalia (AerolineeInternazionali Italiane, also called ‘the wings of Italy’) will not exist anymore and be replaced by ITA, for Italia Trasporto Aereo). As a result, the fleet of Alitalia will be halved; the personnel is waiting anxiously for the impact on their lives.
Alitalia was created in 1947, after World War II, and began (like many other national carriers, remember Sabena) to run into trouble in the nineties, after the deregulation of air transport. Then, it carried one Italian air passenger out of two, totaling 28 million, and employed 22 000 people.
Losses were accumulated, and restructuring was the keyword, but that always seemed cosmetic until now in Italy. A possible marriage with the Dutch national aircraft carrier KLM collapsed very soon after the honeymoon.
In 2008, Alitalia already went bankrupt the first time, and a new company (Alitalia-CAI) was created thanks to the Italian state absorbing all debts. Despite continuous losses, Middle-East carrier Etihad showed interest and created a third version of Alitalia, Societa Aerea Italiana.
In 2017, losses had already accumulated again, and the Italian State came rescuing once more, with transactions still under investigation by European authorities. Since then, things have worsened, but the pandemic halted some urgent settlements, and Europe showed itself more lenient for direct state aid.
Too heavy to survive
For years now, the Italian State has been looking for other partners to replace Etihad, and some showed interest. Still, all asked for a big ‘clean up’ on the personnel side, 11 000 employees being far too many for a company of this size.
The more so that the new company ITA will have to reduce its fleet to some 50 aircraft, almost half of what Alitalia used to have. According to different Italian sources, the new company plans to offer around 60 routes toward 45 destinations worldwide.
It remains to be seen if the loss of weight (in all departments) will work for the new company and how the unions will react. Almost all air carriers are in (very) difficult weather, especially the big national carriers.
Low-cost carriers, Ryanair leading the pack, seem to be recuperating better and quicker. The Irish ‘pirate’ has even shown some interest in the remains of Alitalia, a rather cynical change of destiny when one knows that carriers like Ryanair are the nails on the coffin of these once so proud national companies.