MILAN – Shipping group MSC and airline Lufthansa are interested in buying a majority stake in Alitalia’s successor, ITA Airways, despite the airline’s history of failed privatisations and 170 million euro ($194 million) operating loss in 2021.
The Italian government has spent an estimated 10 billion euros ($11.4 billion) of taxpayers’ money on Alitalia over the years. Here is what may be attractive to ITA’s suitors:
STREAMLINED ORGANISATION, REDUCED COSTS
ITA has a fleet of 52 aircraft, less than half that of Alitalia, and employs around 2,300 people compared with nearly 11,000 at Alitalia in 2019. Some 7,000 former Alitalia employees have been put on a layoff scheme funded by the government.
ITA has signed a labour contract that is less generous than that of Alitalia. The new carrier only owns an aviation business, without handling and maintenance operations.
ITA operates fewer routes than Alitalia did after cancelling several domestic point-to-point flights and reducing long-haul routes to just Rome-New York. It plans to expand its long-haul operations, starting from the summer.
MILAN CITY AIRPORT
ITA owns the majority of take-off and landing rights at Milan’s Linate airport, which is considered a key base for routes to European destinations. Linate traditionally attracts an important share of business passengers as Milan is Italy’s financial capital and the airport is only 6.5-km from the city centre.
ROME FIUMICINO AIRPORT
ITA’s hub is an important entry point for both Italian domestic routes and international destinations. Rome is at the centre of the Mediterranean, making Fiumicino attractive for developing routes towards Africa. Rome is also a key tourist destination in Italy, with high-speed train connections with several Italian cities.
ITA bought the old Alitalia brand for 90 million euros last year to avoid it being acquired by one of Alitalia’s competitors. The brand is considered a symbol of Italian style and is well-known globally, as Alitalia was the airline of the pope and the country’s top lawmakers. Prime Minister Mario Draghi last year joked Alitalia was “a family thing, even if a bit expensive”.
ITA currently has more than 400 million euros in its coffers, partly as a result of a 700 million euro capital injection by the Italian government last year when the carrier started flying in place of Alitalia.
($1 = 0.8776 euros)
(Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by Mark Potter)