Italy Plans To Nationalize Alitalia In June, Consider Leaving SkyTeam For New Alliance

Italy has been pumping cash into perennial loss-maker Alitalia for years, despite European Union rules against subsidizing a national carrier. Other airlines have burned through capital with ownership stakes in the airline – Air France and Etihad – but they’ve been burned and other carriers were gun shy to take over given losses of 2 million euros a day even before things began going down hill for the entire aviation industry.

The Italian government wouldn’t stand up to the airline’s unions, and without lowering costs no one was willing to come to a deal to take over the failed airline.

Now potential suitors, which had included Delta Air Lines, are no doubt grateful the process had dragged on and they didn’t do a deal. Qatar must be glad it didn’t find a way to save Air Italy, and allowed it to shut down instead.

There’s no longer a prospect to do any deal. The Italian government is instead nationalizing the airline in June. They plan to create a new company to transfer Alitalia’s assets into and shrink the fleet by 23 planes (earlier speculation had their 113 aircraft shrinking by 30). In all likelihood the current coronavirus crisis means the European Union won’t push back. Indeed, other countries are expected to provide subsidies to their major airlines as well.

Copyright: jvdwolf / 123RF Stock Photo

There are two key takeaways:

  1. The government claims they’ll finally make Alitalia profitable, because as a new company they start ‘on equal footing’ with other European airlines. This is doubtful given the strength of the airline’s unions. If this ever comes to pass the government would consider re-privatizing the carrier.

  2. They are considering leaving SkyTeeam for “a possible new international alliance…once an existing code-sharing agreement with U.S. carrier Delta expires on May 24.” Is this just cheap talk in hopes of gaining negotiating leverage? The current pandemic makes it unlikely Delta has much to offer in the near-term, even if Italy’s government can get Delta’s attention. Then again it could also be spite for Delta walking away from a role in acquiring the airline.

The Italian government, though, should allow the airline to fail. That’s the only way to hit the reset button on costs and work rules that make it terribly uncompetitive and loss-making even in the best of times in the aviation industry.

About Gary Leff

Gary Leff is one of the foremost experts in the field of miles, points, and frequent business travel - a topic he has covered since 2002. Co-founder of frequent flyer community, emcee of the Freddie Awards, and named one of the "World's Top Travel Experts" by Conde' Nast Traveler (2010-Present) Gary has been a guest on most major news media, profiled in several top print publications, and published broadly on the topic of consumer loyalty. More About Gary »

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  1. Here’s hoping Alitalia migrates to Oneworld. Since the collapse of Malév Hungarian Airlines, their coverage of most of Europe has been awful..

  2. Why should anyone but Italian taxpayers care that Italy wants to run a money loosing airline. Perhaps they get more in income taxes from Alitalia and it’s suppliers employees than it will loose on Alitalia operating losses?

  3. “Lose” is spelled with one “o”, for the meaning of “no longer have”. (“Loose” means “not tight”.)

  4. I had a flight booked in J, using transfer miles into Alitalia Millemiglia for travel this past Sept, 2020. Covid derails this and flight was cancelled. We cannot travel to Italy at least until Sept of next year due to personal work schedule.

    News reports of the last 2 weeks or so indicate that Alitalia’s long struggle my well finally be at an end after ongoing losses & bailouts.

    I have 104k miles in Millemiglia from those 2 cancelled business class tickets.
    Booking on a partner airline would cost at least double what Alitalia is currently showing (and what I booked at originally) 48k points 1 way per business class ticket (98k points total for me and wife). And there’s speculation they may change alliances anyway so that complicates it even more.

    If I was to rebook my tickets soon, ON AZ and not a partner, before AZ goes under, for a flight in September 2021, can anyone speculate on whether or not the restructured airline (ITA is the name floating around now) would be likely to honor such ticket (assuming the restructuring occurs well before my flight date) ??

    I totally understand your would be speculation but would appreciate any educated thoughts on this based on other similar past airline failures.


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