Alitalia, waiting for the new plan

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The meeting between the Minister of Infrastructure and Transport, Paola De Micheli and the trade unions will be held next Wednesday, and not tomorrow as initially scheduled. A slight delay, therefore, trade union sources report, for an expected appointment that will serve to take stock of the state of the art of the Alitalia dossier and on the entire air transport sector. At the meeting, which will take place by videoconference starting at 12, the confederal category acronyms were convened while the professional associations of the sector would not have been called. For Tuesday 4, however, another meeting is scheduled on the Ministry of Labor for another hot dispute, that of Air Italy. For the occasion, the unions have announced a demonstration that will take place in front of the dicastery of Via Veneto.

Appointments, in the height of summer, that give the pulse of how hot and urgent the open files are. The wait on Alitalia is above all centered on the new industrial plan which the advisors, the Government and the new designated leaders of the newco, the CEO Fabio Lazzerini and the president Francesco Caio have been working on for weeks. Plan that will indicate the route on which the newco will travel, for which the decree for its establishment is awaited and which, in its corporate architecture, will see a holding company which will report three operational assets, flight, maintenance and handling.

A fixed point of the plan seems to be that relating to the fleet. The new Alitalia will start with 70 planes that will cover a network focused mainly on the short-medium range. This approach would go along with the recovery trend in air traffic, which, as the IATA pointed out just in recent days, would go back up the slope, after the paralysis imposed by the lockdown, on the short-medium range. Notwithstanding that the return of total traffic to the pre Covid levels will not take place before 2024 (compared to the initial forecast of 2023), the international air transport organization estimates that recovery will take place faster in this short-haul than in the long-haul with the number of passengers that will increase more than the traffic measured in rpk (revenue passenger kilometers). In this segment, the return to pre-covid levels is expected in 2023.

But, in this scenario, the point is to understand if the new Alitalia, smaller and more focused on the medium range, will be strong and fierce enough to compete with the large low cost airlines that have for years now stormed and conquered the rich Italian market. The numbers contained in the ENAC 2019 Annual Report see Ryanair in first place in the ranking of carriers operating in Italy with a total traffic that grew by 7% to 40.5 million passengers, almost doubling Alitalia which, instead, recorded a decrease in the 1% with 21.7 million. It must be said that the former flag carrier is still in first place for national traffic, 11.8 million passengers, always undermined by Ryanair with 11.2 million passengers.

If the question is open for the future, certain answers come from the past. For example, the flight of the Alitalia’s Fenice plan of the all-Italian consortium, which began in 2009 and ended in 2014, did not take very far: Alitalia Cai which aimed to strengthen itself on the domestic and the international had to deal not only with the competition of low cost but also with the arrival of high speed which marked a revolution in the country’s mobility.

And then demand is added to demand: in perspective, when traffic will also resume on the long haul, the most profitable market segment, as Alitalia will rank with a scaled down long haul fleet. It is clear that a ‘stand alone’ plan cannot hold up and the theme of the alliance becomes crucial. And there are those who observe that the take-off of the new airline with 70 aircraft would respond to the design of the old Lufthansa plan.

Neuralgic is the node of the occupation. Seventy planes mean fewer employees. The calculation is that the workers in the new company should be 7-7500. The government has assured that there will be no cuts. According to some sources interviewed, those who will not join the new Alitalia should remain in the bad company with the coverage of social safety nets and with the possibility of a relocation to other companies. And it is on this that the unions will ask for clarifications and certainties.

Last but not least, Alitalia’s new route also passes through Brussels. The EU asked the new airline for discontinuity to authorize its takeoff. The answer should come in the coming weeks. Another piece that makes the company’s August even hotter.

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