Alitalia Pilots and Cabin Crew Want Clarity on Airline's Future

 - October 3, 2018, 3:23 PM
An Alitalia Airbus A330-200 takes off from Rome's Fiumicino Airport. (Photo: Flickr: Creative Commons (BY-SA) by airlines470)

Alitalia flight and cockpit crew are expressing increased alarm that the embattled airline has begun sliding into another abyss and want reassurances from the government about its future. The three trade unions representing pilots and cabin crew—Anpac, Anpav, and ANP—have joined forces and formed the Federazione Nazionale del Trasporto Aereo (FNTA), Italy's National Federation of Air Transport, to speak “with one voice when we meet with the government,” according to Anpac secretary-general Antonio Divietri.

“We are running out of time,” Divietri told AIN, referring to the October 31 deadline for the closing of the long-running sales process of the Italian flag carrier, which has operated under special administration since May last year. The Italian government this past May pushed back the deadline for selecting a buyer for Alitalia by six months while also postponing the repayment of a €900 million ($1.04 million) government-guaranteed bridge loan to December 15.

“We know nothing. We are speaking to the [state-appointed] commissioners, but we want an answer from the government on one simple question: what is happening?” Divietri said, while denying reports that the FNTA has called a strike. “We are mobilizing,” he warned, however. Pilots and cabin crew, he explained, will prepare to initiate industrial action if the government doesn’t soon produce a reassuring response.

The FNTA hasn’t set a date for a meeting with the government, Divietri conceded. “We are waiting for the responsible ministers to come back to us,” he said. After the new government formed, it asked stakeholders for their views on how to advance the Italian air transport sector in general and Alitalia specifically. The former government had started the sales process of the bankrupt Italian flag carrier and attracting bids from amongst others, Lufthansa and easyJet, but Italy’s new coalition government has indicated it would want to maintain Italian control of the airline and at least 51-percent ownership.

Industry undersecretary Michele Geraci recently said he asked Silk Road Fund, Air China, and China Eastern Airlines to consider buying a stake of up to 49 percent in Alitalia. “Whoever ends up buying Alitalia should not be a close competitor of the Italian carrier,” he stressed. “A Chinese investor would be a potentially attractive buyer.”

The Anpac pilots’ union believes the best solution for Alitalia would involve a “strong alliance with an American company and a new fleet,” said Divietri. Alitalia’s fleet remains fairly young, but the airline leases 74 percent of its fleet and it flies no new-generation widebodies or narrowbodies. With oil prices rising, the situation does not look ideal, the Anpac secretary general noted.

Meanwhile, Stefano Paleari, one of the commissioners managing the airline, told parliament last week that Alitalia returned to a net profit of €2 million in the third quarter. In the first nine months of the year, revenues rose 4.6 percent to €2.35 billion and EBITDA loss, excluding non-recurring items, dropped to €59 million from €246 million during the same period a year earlier.