Alitalia’s Not Quite Dead Yet, But It’s Close

I’m sure I’ll get another comment saying that I’m obsessed with Alitalia, and you know what? It’s true. This is far more entertaining than any soap opera, but there is important information to be had here. Do NOT book any flights on this airline.

As predicted, the unions couldn’t quite figure out that without a reduction in force, they’ll all be jobless, so they marched forward in protest. This is actually a photo from a union rally with what I’d like to think was going through their heads at the time.

Alitalia Striking Workers

Will this really be the end? Of course not. Sure they may shut down the airline, but they’ll just resurrect it again without all that debt and without those insane union members who have sealed their fates through their stubborn behavior. They’ll probably give it a fancy new name, just like in Greece where Olympic is being shut down. But don’t worry. They’ll still have all the same underlying problems to keep us entertained.
[Original Photo: Alessandro Bianchi/Reuters]


31 Responses to Alitalia’s Not Quite Dead Yet, But It’s Close

  1. Evan says:

    LOL. Best use of Photoshop ever.

  2. David says:

    I take slight (pedantic) exception to your comment about not booking flights on Alitalia. The important thing is that the flights should not be issued by Alitalia and preferably not be issued with an AZ airline code.

    As an example, buying a ticket from Paris to Rome issued by Air France that happens to use an Altialia flight under an Air France codeshare should be fine – Air France still has the obligation to get you to Rome.

    Some of the more nerdy elements amongst us might even want to do this – if only to say that they’ve flown Alitalia. Better get in quick though… !

  3. CF says:

    David – I still wouldn’t book Alitalia, even if it is safer to book via codeshare. Yes, they may be responsible for getting you there, but if flight go away, then you may not get there when you wanted to be there. Sure, if you have flexibility, then it would be a fun trip to try to get on them before they go. But otherwise, I wouldn’t risk it and stick to a flight that you know will actually be going.

  4. David says:

    As we all know, Alitalia has full membership of Skyteam – not just a half-way associate level membership.

    Should Alitalia cease flying, do the other Skyteam airlines have any formal obligation to honour Alitalia’s tickets (presumably on a standby basis) as opposed to just offering discounted tickets as all airlines seem to do when another airlines goes bust ?

    The last time anything like this happened was with Varig or Ansett going bust. Anyone remember what happened then ?

  5. CF says:

    David – I don’t believe there is any formal obligation, though I don’t know how Skyteam works in that way. What is most likely is that the partner airlines will take people for a small fee on a standby basis, but I believe that’s a voluntary program.

  6. Rob says:

    If I were Mr. “Go For a Cappuccino”, I’d be less concerned about my job and more concerned with coming up with a good line to pick up that hot chick behind me.

  7. Did anyone see the original “Buffy The Vampire Slayer” movie starring Kristy Swanson? There’s a scene there where she kills a vampire played by Paul Reubens, AKA Pee Wee Herman. it takes him a long time to actually die, because he kept popping up. I wont believe it until I see planes actually being grounded. And even then, I won’t believe it until the repo man shows up. And even then, it will be in the back of my mind that they’ll come back like the guest that wouldn’t leave…

  8. Rigil Kent says:

    HI,
    although the picture is quite funny, it denotes that you do not know anything about Italian Labor Law.
    If a partially state controlled company (the italian Treasury is the majority stakeholder in Alitalia) goes bankrupt, the employees do not get payless altogether. They can get what in Italy is known as “Cassa Integrazione” something like “Integrative Pay” which can be up to 8 years and up to 80% of the original salary.

  9. CF says:

    Rigil Kent – Eight years and 80% of my original salary? I’d try to sink the company as well! Much better to get almost as much money and not have to do anything. How incredibly ridiculous that there’s almost no incentive to try to save the company.

  10. Rigil Kent says:

    Up to 80% and up to 8 years. That is the maximum possible. Normally you don’t get it that good… but still…

  11. Yo says:

    Airline unions, always a pathetic source of humor.

    Thank Xenu I’m not a collectivist.

  12. How do I get a job with Atalia? With that parachute I need to work there.

  13. dan powers says:

    alitalia has more lives than a cat…they have a few more left I think. when the repo man shows up, I will believe it.

  14. Rigil Kent says:

    Alitalia has been for years and years a place where ‘connected’ people could land their secure job until retirement. Relatives and friends of that local administrator, in-laws of that member of parliament, protegees of that senator etc. etc.
    Those people would supply in return an almost endless source of local and national votes.
    That’s why the government has been pouring tons of money into it making it a fully inefficient company. Now that with a mich stricter enforcement of UE competition laws that would be technically illegal, all of a sudden they realized they are going bankrupt!
    But votes are important, and the italian government will find a way….

  15. JM says:

    Poor Alitalia, it just has the misfortune of being in the wrong country.

    If it were in Argentina, a bailout would be all but certain!
    There, a money losing airline is OK.

    Just check out this quote from Argentine Congressman Ariel Basteiro in the International Herald-Tribune on September 4 regarding the renationalization of Aerolineas Argentinas: “A public entity doesn’t always have to make money, although that’s ideal.”

    Yeesh.

    Here is my question, though. If Alitalia folds, does Aerolineas lose its “Worst Airline Ever In Training” status and move up(down)in rank?

    –JM

    P.S. Wait, I have an idea! Can Alitalia just have itself declared a Wall Street investment bank or insurance company? Hank Paulson and Ben Bernanke, do you read the CF?

  16. CF says:

    JM – If Alitalia folds, I think I’m going to have to open up a contest to all the readers to see who should succeed them. Stay tuned for that one!

  17. Brian Lusk says:

    CF,
    With your obsession over the flying Italians, I have two suggestions. The obvious is therapy. The second is to see if they have a company store selling apparel and other items imprinted with the Alitalia logo. If they do, buy the store out. Not only can you be surround by reminders, you might make a nice penny on eBay and the airliner show circuit.
    Brian

  18. CF says:

    Brian – I already snagged myself an Alitalia t-shirt when I went to their LAX inaugural party. (BTW, apparently they weren’t so thrilled with my coverage, so I doubt I’ll be invited back.)

    It took a lot of restraint to avoid talking about them today. Apparently Hugo Chavez and friends in Venezuela are submitting an offer. AHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!

  19. We love Alitalia says:

    As you can read from the main press and from prestigius travel blog, Alitalia`s investor found an agreement with the union and in the coming days will be decided the international partner.So folks, book, Alitalia, fly Alitalia and enjoy the italian style.

  20. Cristi says:

    For somebody like me… that lived in Italy for almost two years… and that is still going there almost one – two months a year what the unions did was not strange at all.
    Not knowing the context (political and economical and social) of Italy will just make somebody to say the employees were absolutely crazy! But they weren’t! They knew nobody will close down the trouble airline, because that would create chaos in the country. There are reports saying that there are almost 7.000 Italians flying daily with the company, and there are more that 6.000 passengers in transit with this airline. Apart from this I know many Italians who will not fly another company than Alitalia. In the same time… shutting down an airline with more that 20.000 employees would create a social problem. And believe me… would not be nice to see 20.000 employees going to march in the streets… together with their families :-)
    Anyway, the deal with CAI/LH/AF will be sealed till October 1st and I realy hope the company will do beter from now on. I wrote some more on my blog…

  21. We love Alitalia says:

    Dear Cranky,
    Why didnt you update yet your web site with the new information about Alitalia?

  22. We love Alitalia says:

    Come on Cranky
    Come on! Update the information and please apologize with Alitalia, Alitalia employees and your readers. You were wrong.
    And please delet your slogan about us (I work for Alitalia) you worked for much worst airlines, most of them didnt exist anymore!

  23. CF says:

    Cristi – There was never a plan to shut down the airline and strand 20,000 employees without work. I believe that the worst plan in terms of employee cuts saw a 5,000 person reduction. I have no doubt that most of those people would have found work at other airlines as they come in to pick up the slack. Those airlines would have been able to better serve Italy than Alitalia does now, and it would have been better for passengers.

    We love Alitalia – I haven’t written an update, because nothing is done. The flight attendants still have not agreed to a plan, and while I expect that may happen, I’m just going to wait until it does before writing.

    I also will not be apologizing. I still consider Alitalia to be the worst airline ever, and I’m glad it will continue to live on so that I can continue to write about it’s deficiencies.

  24. Cristi says:

    CF – The biggest union of crew members (pilots and stewards) have agreed on the contracts Saturday. There is still a small union (900 stewards and 800 ground personals) that will go for the talks tomorrow. I think that there will not be fuss… and everybody will agree on new contracts and other stuff. I think that Alitalia deserves a chance and I think that the great people working for it will do their best under a very good new management!

    We love Alitalia – if you are working at the Malpensa base I’ll have some 6 hours between my flights on Thursday. If you want we can have a coffee and a small chat about the company both we love (me… as a passenger).

  25. CF says:

    Cristi – I agree that there probably won’t be a fuss and that Alitalia will live on. It will be interesting to see if they can actually craft a profitable airline out of this. I’m obviously skeptical.

  26. We love Alitalia says:

    Come on Cranky! Please give us your feed-back. We need your experience! How do you explain LH and AF are both fighting for a partnership with Alitalia?

  27. CF says:

    I’ll have a post tomorrow.

  28. We love Alitalia says:

    Cranky,
    I understand that by apologizing you will admit your mistakes. Doesn’t matter. If you pretend to be the expert of the airlines you should make sure updated on what you are writing/talking. All unions, pilots and cabin crews signed the plan for the New Alitalia yesterday. At this link you can even find the agreement (http://www.ilsole24ore.com/art/SoleOnLine4/Finanza%20e%20Mercati/2008/09/contratto-alitalia-documenti.shtml?uuid=ae989964-8e3e-11dd-aadf-8a371e451c08&DocRulesView=Libero).
    And again Alitalia is not worst than any of the airlines you worked with, I’m wondering if you did ever fly with us. Should you try I can give you a very good rate!
    Your daily nightmare

  29. We love Alitalia says:

    Cristi!
    Unfortunately I don’ t leave in Italy. But I leave Italy and I ll fly Alitalia for ever!

  30. CF says:

    We love Alitalia – You are far from my worst nightmare . . . more like a fun sparring partner than anything else. But as I said above, I will be posting on this tomorrow. If you read my previous posts, you will see that I rarely discuss customer service (maybe once or twice). That is not why I say Alitalia is the worst airline. It could be the best around on customer service, for all I know, but the anecdotes from others say otherwise. I am referring to the bungling management, government over-involvement, and intransigent unions that combine to make the worst airline ever. You think this deal is going to suddenly create a fully functioning airline? No way.

  31. mechanic x says:

    expressjet teamsters = alitalia union mooks. the mentality sounds alot like our italian friends. they’d rather vote down a necessary pay cut deal and lose their jobs than take the cut and keep the jobs. me personally, if they want to do something like, say , strike, they better not stand in my way on the way into the parking lot on strike day. i will run them down with my car. i have a family to feed.

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