Italy and the European Union appear to have taken a step closer to agreeing on the terms of Alitalia’s successor. New information from the Brussels talks says unofficial approval of an ITA plan of 55 to 60 planes and up to 5,000 employees is expected by next week.
Potential breakthrough in negotiations
After months of shutdown and blockage, it looks like the EU is finally ready to give Italy the green light for its new national airline. EU officials have demanded a clear separation between the assets and brand of Alitalia and the carrier that is expected to emerge from its restructuring. Discussions were particularly heated around the Alitalia slots at Milan Linate airport.
However, now the structure of the new airline, which will be known as Italia Trasporto Aereo, or ITA, is set to gain approval from Brussels, Bloomberg reports. It will initially be authorized to employ between 4,500 and 5,000 people and operate a fleet of 55 to 60 aircraft.
This is a reduction of around 40% to 45% compared to Alitalia’s pre-COVID fleet of just over 100 aircraft. However, only 45 of the airline’s fleet are currently listed as active according to the ch-aviation database, so that current operational capacity would not be immediately affected.
It is not known which aircraft the airline will keep and what the relationship between the composition of the narrow body and that of the two corridors will be. Alitalia has only 11 aircraft per se – one Airbus A319, four A320s, one A321 and five Boeing 777s.
Alitalia still employs 11,000 people. Long discussions with the unions accompanied the political stalemate. After Italy lifted its strict COVID restrictions on public gatherings, large protests were staged by airline employees, including pilots, cabin crew and administrative staff in Rome, in conjunction with the 74th anniversary of Alitalia’s operations last month.
Partner announcement in mid-June
Initial plans were to launch the new airline in April, as Alitalia’s CEO expressed fears that a delay could cause the carrier to lose ground to low-cost airlines. Alitalia has been in contact with several potential partners for ITA. Discussions have taken place with Lufthansa and Air France-KLM, but it seems that the group led by the German national airline is now the most inclined to a commercial partnership.
Italian media report that Delta Air Lines and United Airlines are the two potential candidates for the US market. Delta confirmed at Corriere della Sera that the carrier is in talks with ITA to âconsolidate and deepen their relationshipâ. Alitalia management has previously said a decision on a new partner is expected by mid-June.
Years and billions of state aid
Italy had a good trip with its national airline. After years of losses, his fortunes appear to have turned when Etihad stepped in and took 49% ownership for â¬ 560m in 2014. However, there was controversy surrounding a restructuring plan, and the carrier Gulf is gone.
Following Alitalia’s bankruptcy in May 2017, the airline desperately searched for a new owner. A wide range of operators, including easyJet, Lufthansa and China Eastern, have expressed interest. However, the plans failed and the Italian government intervened and took full control in April last year to prevent the carrier from shutting down operations. He is now ready to inject â¬ 3 billion into the ITA – given that he gets final approval from Brussels. Hopefully we will find out by the end of next week.