Ciao Alitalia: And the Fat Lady Sings

Alitalia may have reached the end of the runway earlier this week when investors withdrew their one billion euro offer to save its ass. In what is shaping up to be the never-ending story of Alitalia’s demise, six of the nine unions are finding themselves in the hotseat, Berlu is blaming the left, the left is blaming Berlu, 20,000 people are set to lose their jobs and the rest of us are sick of hearing about it.

Because they are all wrong!

David, of The Padova Chronicles recounted the sentiments of the 80 flight attendants who recently held a sit-in to show opposition for the now defunct proposal.

(They opposed) … things like “workers and airplanes being moved around to where they are needed, pay would be connected to hours worked, in short everything would be based on productivity.” One could see how the company went bankrupt with workers fighting against such “harsh” treatment; without even taking into consideration how badly it was managed.

Of course, this could have been avoided had the Air France/KLM merger not been thwarted earlier this year by the re-election-seeking uber-billionaire politician everyone loves to hate. And quite frankly for too many Italians the price is just too high.

Have you been following the Alitalia “should we stay or should we go” fiasco? If not, there is a full recap of recent events at The Padova Chronicles. So who do you think is to blame and what, if anything can be done now?

* This post was accurate at the time it was written. With Alitalia’s fate changing more quickly than they ever flew through the skies … who the hell knows now.

8 Responses
  1. I understand people worrying that a foreign company was buying an airline with the name Italia in it. Just like many Americans can’t believe Aneusher-Busch (sp) is now owned by a Belgian company.

    It’s globalization and if Mr. B didn’t have a real plan to fix the problem he should have kept quiet about the merger.

    At least Italy taxpayers would have paid less for this bailout. AIG alone cost US taxpayers 85 billions and the feds want 700 BILLION more. sigh.
    I was very sad to hear that AB is Belgian now and I “get” that line of thinking. Although I think Berlu was using Italian patriotism to win his election without a clear idea of what he would do if/when it came to this.

  2. Vanessa

    good summary – plenty of blame to go round in circles for years. I have hardly been following this debacle as it changes so much. Give me the outcome already!!

    Lots of people are to blame IMO. Berlusconi probably deserves the biggest share of the blame. Pretending to be right wing and then letting the staff/ unions have their way and backing them up financially with the tax payers funds!

    I fly frequently with Alitalia and mainly because i have no other choice. I’d LOVE to see them replaced by an efficient, cheaper and friendlier airline. Unfortunately this weekend we have tickets booked with them so am waiting with baited breath as to whether we will actually be flying or not. Otherwise thank God for travel insurance!
    I agree, Vanessa. I was hoping Air France/KLM would take over. Those are two great airlines in my book! I do hope you make your trip, though. Be sure to let us know.

  3. joanne at frutto della passione

    I’m sick to death of the whole thing. I stopped flying to Canada with them 7 years ago and don’t care what happens anymore. Instead of salvaging the company and saving jobs (let’s not forget the domino effect of 20,000 people losing their jobs) they (the protesting unions and workers) preferred to sabotage the deal. Now they will of course expect the government to bail them out one way or another. Is there a box we can tick on our income tax statement that says *Don’t give any of my tax money to Alitalia*?
    Grrr, grumble grumble.
    Joanne, if you find that box, let me know. Like you, I’ve avoided Alitalia for years. I am not surprised they are in this situation. Let’s hope the government and taxpayers can stop carrying them now!

  4. It was my impression that from the top to the bottom, absolutely no one in Alitalia had given a damn for a passenger for at least 30 years.

    The Alitalia flights I was on in the 80s were DIY for the passengers while the cabin attendants joked and laughed among themselves. The planes were often dirty and run down. If you booked well ahead you really didn’t know if your flight would go or not. If any of the many unions felt like it, they’d strike. Alitalia became the line you would use for a cheap last minute flight. And they got to be as cheap as $50 across the Atlantic at times.

    Over the years time and again they demonstrated that they had no interest in what made an airline popular or even chosen and that they thought Alitalia existed to give them a good job, not too hard and well-paid. Over time, Alitalia became just about last choice for most frequent travelers.

    Now, it is clear that even the president of the pilot’s union doesn’t have a clue what a profit making commercial enterprise must do to exist. “Make a deal or the airline dies” and he doesn’t make a deal. What did he say? “I’m sure Berlusconi will do something.” What? With whose money? It’s likely that even Berlu doesn’t have the kind of money that’s been disappearing down the black hole that has been Alitalia. Was it euro 750,000 per day for years now?
    Yes, it was an insane amount like that. My wish is that we can “start over” and get a real airline in Italy. Air One isn’t much better.

  5. I remember people hating Alitalia when I was growing up in Switzerland in the 1980s — if you lived in the Italian part of Switzerland, chances are you would take a longer train ride to fly out of Zurich on Swissair than Milan on Alitalia, even though it was more expensive and take longer to go the Zurich route. It seems like things have just gotten worse. 🙁
    It is definitely worse. For years Alitalia has pretty much only hired “their friends” into these great positions and no one accepts responsibility for anything! I think it finally got the best of them.

  6. My first trip to Italy and back was with Alitalia. I remember liking the service and the planes. I had no complaints, but I have not been following their demise. All I can say is that I think it is a sign of the times for all the airlines. US airlines are constantly in jeopardy and with the financial/ Wall Street crisis going on here, I don’t seeing it getting any better on this end either, any time soon.

    I am however happy that Eurofly, which flies direct from JFK to Rome and other Italian cities, is around and hopefully doing well.
    Alitalia has been pretty bad for years, as Judith points out. I really *hope* you are wrong, Robin, but … well, I just hope you are, dangit! 🙂

  7. j

    It seems like airlines go belly up or merge around here with regularity. Now its Wall Street investment firms and insurance companys…ah capitalism.
    Scary stuff, eh??

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