Italia Trasporto Aereo, the Italian state’s new airline venture, might start operation later than the originally planned date (October 15th), the day that’s already in the booking system and from which the airline is selling tickets. This is what four internal sources told aviation reporter Leonard Berberi of Corriere della Sera, the country’s most important newspaper.
The measure, described by the sources as «extreme», would ultimately extend the life of Alitalia until the newly defined starting date of the airline, which would be in March 2022, according to the periodical.
These talks were held in the context of difficult negotiations between the new airline and the unions who are asking for the extension wage benefit for Alitalia’s employees not incorporated into ITA . This extension would apply until the end of the start up industrial plan in 2025.
Corriere della Sera reports that while the Italian government has a «mediation project», the idea of freezing ITA’s take-off would also allow the new airline to start in a more favorable market environment – just before the summer season. European airlines, especially loss-making ones, often struggle to endure winter, in a market that’s highly seasonal.
The idea, however, would face the European Union’s opposition. The mere fact that justifies ITA’s creation explains the problem: EU regulations impeded Alitalia to receive more money from the Italian state, which prompted it to plan an entirely new airline.
The Italian government and the EU, by consequence, agreed to close Alitalia «as soon as possible», Corriere reports, in a way to alleviate the body’s sanctions against Italy in two cases of illegal state aid for Alitalia, in 2017 and in 2019.
While delaying ITA’s start up will gain time for negotiations, according to source this would make matters worse. Not only has Alitalia run out of cash – it has only paid 50% of September’s payroll – but the new airline will lose even more money since ITA started to sell tickets for travel effective October 15th, 2021 back on August 26th.
Alitalia would therefore have to honor thousands of tickets that they did not sell while not having enough lead time to optimize revenues.
With that, Alitalia would require more cash from the government to keep flights operating in a moment where the country already committed a date to shutter the airline – and with the 2019 bailout still being scrutinized by the EU.