Italy’s new national airline, ITA Airways, took to the skies last week, but all is not well on the ground of Italian aviation. The government-owned carrier was formed from Air One and Alitalia, Italy’s two largest carriers, to create a more competitive airline. But a recent study by Jens Flottau and the Centre for European Policy Studies (CEPS) shows that Italy’s new national champion will have a hard time.
ITA Airways, a new national carrier created by the Italian government and private investors, started operations on 11th Friday with a promise to bring pride back to its national flag carrier. The airline takes over all Alitalia passenger flights and leases planes from Air One. The new airline will operate under the ITA Airways brand, and plans to hire circa 2,500 more employees by 2025 are underway.
Former employees of Alitalia stripped down their uniforms in front of the Italian airline’s headquarters in Rome to protest against job cuts and changes to their contracts. The airline, which was once Italy’s national carrier, was bought by ITA — a subsidiary of Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways– 2015.
It is hard to believe, but Alitalia (the acronym stands for Societa e Italiano Aviazione Civile) ceased operations on October 14. Several airlines stepped in to take over flights, with ITA (Istituto dei Trasporti Aeronautici), the nation’s civil aviation authority, assuming aircraft and flight crew control. This airline is not a newcomer. From 1946 until its official demise, it had managed to be among Italy’s top three airlines, flying predominantly long-haul routes to destinations including New York City and Los Angeles.
This was a major embarrassment for Alitalia; It was a small airline. It used to sell cheap tickets for its flights. However, it is owned by the much larger (much richer) Italian flag carrier, which was the national airline of Italy until last year. The Alitalia flight attendants were protesting a change in Alitalia’s management style. In the past, Alitalia’s management had treated its employees like adults. The managers had decided that, like children, Alitalia employees needed to be controlled, or Alitalia would lose its market share. It was decided that all Alitalia employees would henceforth wear the Alitalia uniform.
Theirs was a demonstration to protest against their job losses but also against the contracts awarded to those who ITA Airways have retained. Therefore, they are urging the government to review its policy on the same. The union complaints claimed that pay cuts and loss of seniority are being used to force flight attendants into taking voluntary redundancy. The union said the airline’s management is forcing flight attendants who have turned down voluntary redundancy to accept salary cuts, as well as removing them from seniority lists. The unions said the measures were being taken against flight attendants who have not taken voluntary redundancy.
ITA Airlines flight attendants gathered at Terminal 1 of Rome’s Fiumicino Airport to demonstrate once again. Wearing only a slip, they remained barefoot, in silence for a few minutes. Then they carefully gathered up their garments and shoes and together shouted: “We are Alitalia! We are Alitalia!”
In a statement, Altavilla said the strike “is a thing of national shame. The flight attendants have been inconsiderate. It is a political decision that will cost travellers dearly, as well as the company that employs them and the country as a whole.” According to Il Fatto Quotidiano, even airline shareholder Istat said there is no way to negotiate with the union.
ITA, the acronym for Italo, will remain the airline’s formal name. But a deep blue tone will be added to its predominantly white red-and-orange colour scheme — a move tested on the prototype before being applied across its fleet of planes.
“I don’t want to say yet. We are talking with big players in the world,” Altavilla said in an interview at Italy’s headquarters in downtown Rome. “We are working on the design of the uniforms, fixtures and fittings that will be installed in the cabins.” ITA Airlines Flight Attendants, the largest independent crew management company in Italy, has unveiled its new look. The airline — which operates for Air Dolomiti and Alitalia — will be launching a brand campaign to introduce the new livery and uniforms later this year.
ITA Airlines flight attendants were offered a deal to work for the new carrier, but union officials say those who will work for ITA are being hired significantly lower pay scales; they signed contracts. Union leaders have also been pressing for the government to extend unemployment benefits for a longer period.
In a nutshell, ITA is a reincarnation of a new and better Italian airline. This airline will launch on a wave of momentum and will be bigger and better,” said ITA chairman Alfredo Altavilla. “We will try to give the travelling public what it wants: Improved air service to more destinations, at lower fares that reflect an improved business model.”
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