New life for Alitalia

Alitalia starts new life as first flights take off…

Alitalia began its new life as a privatised company this week, with its first flights taking off without delay despite worker protests seeking to mar the inauguration of the streamlined national carrier.

The first intercontinental flight from Milan's Malpensa airport to Sao Paulo, Brazil – departed shortly after 6am local time without incident, as did the first domestic flight from Palermo to Rome, which arrived at 7.25am.

But at Malpensa, workers unhappy with both the hiring regime and a deal to make Air France-KLM a minority partner held banners and marched inside the airport.

Malpensa officials advised passengers that delays were possible.

Workers are concerned that the Air France-KLM partnership will further weaken traffic at Malpensa, which already has been demoted from a hub as part of measures to make the failing airline more efficient.

The new Alitalia management pledged on Monday to make Malpensa an integral part of the network – and would even consider making it a hub again.

Alitalia's 62 years as a state-run company ended in bankruptcy.

The new Alitalia is a private company owned by a group of Italian investors who have merged the old Alitalia's profitable assets with the much smaller Air One, which will retain its separate identity.

Air France-KLM, which withdrew an offer to buy the airline outright last year under union and political opposition, has agreed to pay £292 million in cash and equity to become a minority partner with a 25 per cent share in the new company.

The new Alitalia is slimmer than its predecessor, with 148 aircraft from both airlines combined, compared with 173 in the old fleet, and about 12,500 employees, down from more than 23,500 between the two airlines.

The logo remains the same, as do the green flight crew uniforms. The fleet will be newer after the incoming owners declined to take on older, less-efficient planes, and the flight plan is streamlined to serve 70 destinations, just 13 of those intercontinental.

But not everyone is welcoming the deal. Workers held a mock funeral for Alitalia on Monday, and more protests may be held on Tuesday.

Sabelli said he didn't expect major protests by workers employed by the new Alitalia, but feared some anger by those who had been fired. The new airline has arranged for back-up pilots, baggage handlers and technicians to be available in case the protests prevent staff from reaching their jobs, he said.

"I don't expect a perfect takeoff," he said.

Source: The Age