Will Carrier Pull A "Phoenix?" Place Yer Bets...
When it comes to surprise news, this isn't at the level of a
certain, very hot place seeing its first snowfall... but man, it's
close. The Italian government has signed off on the sale of
bankrupt national carrier Alitalia... and furthermore, someone
actually wants to buy the struggling airline, which was described
as "cursed" by its former CEO earlier this year.
CNN reports a group of private investors has agreed to buy the
carrier for a minimum price of 1.052 million Euros. That's more
than Compagnia Aerea Italiana (CAI) wanted to spend for the
carrier, but the group has apparently agreed to the government's
Economic Development Minister Claudio Antonio Scajola signed off
on the purchase plan this week, according to a statement on the
ministry's Web site. "CAI can now proceed in choosing a foreign
partner that will strengthen the presence of Alitalia in the global
The exact purchase price has not been revealed.
CAI was the sole remaining bidder for the assets of Alitalia,
after a number of interested parties were sent running this year by
the combination of economic strife and labor revolt that currently
runs rampant at the woefully neglected airline.
As ANN reported, Alitalia succumbed to the
inevitable and filed for bankruptcy in August. The move came four
months after Air France-KLM Group walked away from what had been
seen as the strongest bid for the airline; the group walked away
from the table, however, when it became clear union opposition to
the idea of an Italian airline being run by a predominantly French
That left CAI... whose offer isn't much more appealing to
Alitalia's workforce. The group of investors, headed by Piaggio SpA
Chairman Roberto Colaninno, has proposed the "Phoenix" plan for
Alitalia. Like the mythical bird, the proposal would allow Alitalia
to rise from the ashes of its own demise -- but only after the
airline sells off its unprofitable units, slashes jobs, and merges
with its largest domestic rival, Air One SpA.
Sure enough, the unions representing most of the airline's
pilots and flight attendants have opposed the impending CAI deal
and the contracts being offered.
As of Wednesday evening, they had not commented on Fantozzi's
approval... but protesting employees have recently taken up a
"work-to-rule" action -- in essence, performing only the bare
minimum of work required by their contracts in an attempt to slow
airline activity and pressure management to pay attention to their
grievances. The move has caused hundreds of flight delays and
While it's worth celebrating the fact one of the world's
best-known airlines may live to see another day after all --
despite almost insurmountable odds -- one can't help but wonder if
former Alitalia CEO Maurizio Prato, who resigned in April after Air
France-KLM packed its bags,
didn't have it right all along...