Postpone the take-off of Italia Trasporti Aereo by a few weeks to appease Alitalia employees and find an agreement with the trade unions on the start-up of the newco and the closure of the old company. The hypothesis – defined extreme – has been running among the competent ministries for a few days, according to what the Corriere della Sera from four Italian and European sources, and gives a good idea of the complexity of the Alitalia and Ita dossiers. But an option that in addition to creating more problems than it solves, as well as postponing the inevitable only a little, risks causing the Draghi government to quarrel with Brussels with undesirable consequences on the other fronts open with the EU.
The passing of the baton
On 14 October Alitalia – for over four years under extraordinary administration – will officially operate the last flights. The following day, Italia Trasporti Aereo is scheduled to take off, the new public airline that enjoys state funding of 1.35 billion euros until 2023. The conditions for giving the ok to the newco and declaring it an entity other than Alitalia are various. Ita must start smaller, with 2,800 employees (against Alitalia’s current 10,200), with 52 aircraft (nevertheless, if it wants to keep the largest number of slots of the old carrier), it must earn the Alitalia brand through a public tender, so such as handling (as a majority shareholder) and maintenance (as a minority shareholder), but cannot take on the MilleMiglia fidelity program or inherit Alitalia prepaid tickets.
The negotiations and protests
At the time of Ita’s departure 7,400 people would remain in Alitalia between layoffs due to expire and others committed to providing the newco with the handling and maintenance services provided for in the supply contract between the old and the new company pending the tenders relating to these two corporate assets find their definition in the coming months. The unions order the newco to sit down at the table and negotiate the new employment contract and ask to extend the layoffs to 2025, the last year of the first industrial plan of Ita. The government would have a draft mediation ready. Meanwhile, thousands of Alitalia employees protest, block roads, strike in front of ministries, Rome Fiumicino airport and the (provisional) headquarters of the newco.
The option on the table
in this context that among the circles of the ministries responsible for the dossier – Sustainable Infrastructures and Mobility, Economic Development, Work and the Economy – the hypothesis of freezing the handover from Alitalia and Ita matured by some. Not just to solve all issues. The postponement of the take-off of the newco towards March 2022 according to supporters of the move – explain the ministerial sources – would allow the company to take off at a more favorable moment from a commercial point of view, that is when people begin to book their summer holidays. and not at the worst time, ie October-November when the period of lower revenues for the sector begins. Until then, Alitalia should continue with the connections.
The EU condemnation
But this hypothesis, however suggestive, would immediately clash with what the sources define as the second package of Brussels requirements for the Ita plan. A package that directly involves the Italian government. To get the go-ahead on the newco, Rome has assured the Community Antitrust to make Alitalia (understood as an airline) disappear from the market as soon as possible. Not just because it needs more public money to continue the business. From September 2021 there is a conviction on the 900 million euro (plus 150 million interest) loan that the EU has branded as illegal state aid and which therefore Alitalia will have to repay as soon as possible and in any case within four months, at most six. if there are particular reasons. Money that Alitalia does not have.
The second investigation
The rejection of that loan – disbursed in 2017 – was ready for months and was already put in black and white last March, Italian and European sources confirm. Then it was decided to wait to find an agreement on the Ita dossier. In the exchanges last spring, Brussels had made it clear to Rome that it would not open an infringement procedure for the failure to recover more than one billion euros from Alitalia as long as the company was made to disappear soon to eliminate an element of strong distortion of the market. Thus we arrive in mid-July when the end of Alitalia (October 14) and the beginning of Ita (October 15) are made official. As a further relaxing gesture and in order not to add tension – the sources reconstruct – the EU Antitrust has also chosen to delay the other decision on Alitalia, the one on the 2019 loan of 400 million euros: even in this they will be branded as State aid illegal and the announcement expected in the second half of October, that is, after the stop to activities. Even this sum will never be recovered.
The race of Ita
A European outstretched hand that – the sources underline – the Draghi government wanted to reciprocate with what is called a sacrifice: to push Ita to take off as soon as possible, even in the least propitious period (autumn in fact), which led to burning the times with all the national and international bureaucratic steps, working tirelessly since the end of July. From the ministries they reveal that it is not uncommon to receive e-mails and messages from the top management of the newco – the president Alfredo Altavilla and the CEO Fabio Lazzerini – even on Saturday and Sunday evenings. That it should take off in mid-October was said by Altavilla also coming out of the hearing of the Transport Commission in the Chamber a few days ago. Ita must leave on October 15th for the simple reason that Alitalia has stopped flying from October 15th, so there are no doubts, alternatives, excuses. Everything must be done to leave on October 15th.
The empty box
Supporters of the freeze, the sources continue, are unaware that Alitalia not only has no money, but has also stopped selling tickets for flights from 15 October on 24 August. So even if you decide to move Ita’s take-off, the old company would end up with empty planes, while the new one would have tens of thousands of bookings in hand, which at that point it would have to honor by embarking customers on Alitalia’s planes. The various ministers dealing with Alitalia and Ita are trying to tackle an issue that is very complex, because if Ita does not start the problems multiply further, said the Minister of Infrastructure and Sustainable Mobility Enrico Giovannini on the sidelines of Futura 2021, the three days of the CGIL in Bologna.
The wages paid in half
In all this some ministries filter a certain irritation at the internal message that the three commissioners of Alitalia – Gabriele Fava, Giuseppe Leogrande and Daniele Santosuosso – sent to employees on Friday 24 September with which they announce that the salaries of the month will be paid at 50 %. The remaining 50% will be credited as soon as we have evidence of the outcome of the Alitalia brand announcement, they write. A phrase that has been interpreted as an attempt to place the final responsibility on Ita and to put pressure on the newco that will participate in the tender, but which does not intend to pay 290 million euros for the brand, if anything, half.
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