Last flight and uncertainties after 75 years of history

ROME, OCT 14 (ANSA) – After a long crisis that has dragged on for several years, Alitalia, the largest Italian civil aviation company, is making this Thursday (14) the last flight in its 75-year history and gives way to a new government-controlled company.

The final trip will depart from Cagliari, Sardinia, at 10:05 pm (local time) and land at Fiumicino Airport, on the outskirts of Rome, around 11:10 pm.

From the following day, Alitalia’s place will be occupied – at least in part – by Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA), but the process of passing the baton between the two companies is still surrounded by uncertainties.

ITA’s inaugural flight is scheduled for 6:20 am on Friday (15), between Milan-Linate and Bari, but the new company will start operating in a much smaller size and amidst the public auction of the Alitalia brand.

Totally controlled by the government, the ITA was only born after an agreement between Italy and the Executive power of the European Union for there to be a total “economic discontinuity” in relation to Alitalia.

That is, ITA will start practically from scratch and will need to obtain its predecessor’s assets and services, including the brand, through public bids and auctions. On the other hand, the new company will not inherit Alitalia’s debts, which will be paid with the sale of its assets.

Even so, the two companies will maintain some ties, such as the “AZ” code, which has always identified Alitalia flights.

Brand and employees

The auction notice for the brand was published on Sept. 17, and government-appointed intervenors to manage the traditional airline asked for at least 290 million euros.

The ITA, however, would have offered only 90 million euros, according to the economic newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, while the European Commission estimates the value of the brand to be 110 million euros.

Another impasse concerns the employment contract of ITA employees. The unions are asking for a collective contract, but the new company wants to impose the bonds unilaterally. Italia Trasporto Aereo will start its trajectory with 2,800 employees, while Alitalia has 10,500.

“Today is not a day of funeral, but the beginning of a resistance. We will not resign, and ITA cannot be the future of air transport in Italy. 8,000 people do not know what their future will be, have been abandoned by the government and for politics,” said Francesco Staccioli, leader of a union of flight attendants, during a demonstration in Fiumicino.

In one of the airport’s terminals, workers spread banners with the words “resistance” and “shame” and were applauded by passengers present at the site.

The new company will have a fleet of 52 aircraft, which will be increased to 78 in 2022 and 105 by the end of 2025, and will use Fiumicino and Linate airports as hubs. The routes will initially cover 45 destinations (up to 74 by 2025), including New York, Miami, Tokyo, São Paulo and Buenos Aires.

Crisis – Officially owned by the holding company Compagnia Aerea Italiana (51%) and Etihad Airways (49%), Alitalia has been under government intervention since May 2017 because of a liquidity crisis that left it on the brink of bankruptcy.

The company survived this period thanks to public loans totaling 1.3 billion euros – all made between 2017 and the end of 2019 – and the EU has already determined that the transfer of at least 900 million of this amount was illegal and will have to be returned.

The bloc has strict rules on state aid to private companies, which made the Italian government opt ​​for the strategy of founding a new airline rather than simply renationalizing Alitalia. (ANSA).