Alitalia Posts Profit, Hell Freezes Over

Alitalia, Worst Airline Ever

I have never written a more surprising post than this one. Alitalia, the queen of red ink, has actually, shockingly, found that by making more money than it was spending, it could post a profit. This past quarter, the airline made 15 million euros in operating profit (pdf). Holy crap.

Don’t get too excited, Alitalia lovers. (There have to be one or two of you, right?)Is Alitalia Still the Worst? This does not mean that Alitalia has relinquished its title as the worst airline ever. But, in a nod to their tremendous achievement, I have introduced a question mark to their badge. It’s no longer the firm statement that it used to be, but something tells me it will return to that point once again soon.

There are still plenty of problems. These results were for the third quarter – July, August, and September. That’s prime tourist season for Italy yet the airline only managed a 74% load factor. Granted, that’s a huge improvement over earlier quarters, but my guess is that it will drop once again now that the tourists are gone.

Even more shocking is the airline’s operational performance. They ran a 99.7% completion factor and on time percentage rose to 74%. They even passed 80% in October, the first month of Q4. Remember, this is an airline that usually likes to strike every couple of days.

Wow, just wow. I’m curled up in the fetal position right now questioning everything. If this keeps up, CEO Rocco Sabelli will get the leader of the century award. Fortunately, I don’t have much faith that it will continue.

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21 comments on “Alitalia Posts Profit, Hell Freezes Over

  1. You surprised me by starting out saying nice about AZ, but ended like the old Cranky we all know and love.

    “””””Fortunately, I don’t have much faith that it will continue.”””””

    How close is UA in getting a ‘worst airline ever’ badge?

  2. A correction is required. Alitalia is the worst airline currently in operation. I have flown on a ridiculous number of airlines, including Alitalia in good times and bad. I’ve even flown Mahan Air! First person to name the country of origin of Mahan without using Google gets a sticker.

    The title worst airline in the history of airlines easily goes to Western Pacific. I flew them on 4 legs, six months apart and they managed to lose my luggage on 3 of the 4 legs. On one trip from LAX to DC via Colorado Springs, they lost my luggage on the way to DC. I was in DC for 7 days, on the 6th day WP found my luggage. On the way back they lost my luggage again but this time they never found it.

  3. Meanwhile, over at Worst Airline Ever in Training Aerolineas Argentinas (now owned by the taxpayers of Argentina), the company’s youthful chief executive is in trouble with the press.

    Something about an alleged junket involving one of the company’s brand new 737-700s…

    At last check, they were still losing over $1 million per day.

    Who needs profits?


  4. Cranky, why do you not have much faith it will continue?
    Yes, they were gifted a scandalously dominant market position by the government, however the people now running it have made an impressive start and are clearly very capable. They also have very good records in turning around failing companies in other industry sectors.

    There still remains ALOT to do, but their start, as I have already said, has been impressive.

    You should probably remember that we are talking about an essentially new airline (CAI) so progress will reflect that. Alitalia is little more than a brand that has been passed (with some personnel & hardware) from one company to another.
    It’s previous incarnation (LAI) was truly awful – maybe you should just award LAI a lifetime acheivement award and let United get their hands on the annual award – they clearly want it badly!!

  5. David SFeastbay wrote:

    How close is UA in getting a ‘worst airline ever’ badge?

    They’re still far behind Alitalia (and Aerolineas Argentinas for that matter)

    Allan wrote:

    First person to name the country of origin of Mahan without using Google gets a sticker.
    The title worst airline in the history of airlines easily goes to Western Pacific.

    I believe Mahan is from Iran, right? And as for WestPac, I flew them a few times during college – Phoenix to Washington via Colorado Springs. Never had a problem, but clearly they were a mess of an airline.

    AZ Sufferer wrote:

    Cranky, why do you not have much faith it will continue?

    I’m certainly jaded, even though this is a new company. If they can post a full year of profits, then I’ll need to reconsider.

  6. @ CF:

    You are correct Cranky, Mahan Air is based out of Tehran. Not a bad airline actually, although the lack of adult beverages made the trip quite boring.

  7. I’ve never flown on Alitalia, but worst airline in the world? I imagine it’d have to be absolutely ghastly to beat my experience on go! in Hawaii a year ago. To avoid going into detail, I’d say that it’d be hard to beat a baggage office phone number that connects to a different airline’s phone, an inability for folks at the check-in counter to check us in for a connecting flight, and the subsequent confusion from the boarding gate folks at the connecting airport as to why we haven’t checked in for our second leg. These just seem like basic things to me. I just hope that these were part of an isolated experience, and that go! isn’t really as unorganized as I perceived them being, or that they’ve gotten their act together if they really were that bad.

  8. Worst. Airline. Ever? Nah, I’m with Allan on this one: Alitalia could be the worst operating major airline, but there are plenty of carriers that were far worse that have been mercifully killed by the market gods.

    My vote? Tower Air.

    In 1999 or 2000, shortly after settling into my seat on one of the super-high-density 747-100 long-haul flights that Tower built its business on, I fasten my seat belt. As I pull the strap to put the belt low and tight across my hips, the left portion of the belt breaks off of its anchor and whips into the passenger seated to my right. It hits him right in the junk.

    After much apologizing, I ask a flight attendant where I should sit instead, since the seat belt was completely broken. She tells me that the plane is entirely full, and the door is now closed, so I should just sit in my seat belt-less seat for the 14 hour flight. Don’t worry, she tells me, we don’t hit too much turbulence.

    The airline geek in me did enjoy one thing about that flight: The latch of the seat belt that had broken off still had Pan Am’s meatball logo on it, nearly a decade after Pan Am folded.

  9. Alitalia weren’t that bad. I’ve flown with them a few times and I got from A to B with reasonable service and, at the time, fairly cheaply. Mind you whenever I booked a ticket I was worried they would fold when someone woke up to the fact that a business is meant to make money! I still have an Alitalia glass that was part of a set that I was given as a kid. The set (showing my inner geek now) had airlines such as Sabena, TWA, Pan Am, Alitalia – see the trend, not many still flying.

  10. Craig — I loved Tower Air! On what other airline could you go to the lav in the middle of the night, only to find two flight attendants making out on the spiral staircase?

  11. hail to the victors. some hope for the industry . . . but are these true “operating profits” or a result of a one time bump to earnings? or perhaps some books were cooked in the kitchen and the smoke yet to be seen lol

  12. Ron wrote:

    Craig — I loved Tower Air! On what other airline could you go to the lav in the middle of the night, only to find two flight attendants making out on the spiral staircase?

    Wait… what?

  13. Andrew — just telling things as they happened. Part of the informal atmosphere, I guess. This was in 1996 or 1998.

  14. I just took a tour group on Alitalia EWR-FCO-TLV / CAI-FCO-EWR. The checkin at EWR was flawless, and the transatlantic flights had good service on their 777’s although the leg room was almost non-existent in economy. On the TLV & CAI flights, the A321’s were showing their age in the interior.

    As a travel agent, I found their group sales department to be very difficult and unresponsive. But they were the only airline flying all the routes so they could provide us the best airfare.

  15. Cranky,
    I have reasons to believe that CAI’s management is on the right path to relaunch Alitalia. The new ownership (including AirFrance/KLM) is closely monitoring the new company and the staff’s attitude towards duty has drastically improved.
    However some time is needed before the old toxic assets get replaced; i.e. prehistoric IT systems, bureaucratic mindset, etc.
    In conclusion, this profit mark can be volatile and surely needs to be confirmed, but it’s a sign of change: I would invest my own money in today’s Alitalia.

  16. Alitalia gets the kudos for worst airline ever, please remove the question mark, Cranky.
    first time Alitalia flyer, just flew a round trip to Spain, and could not believe they can stay in business.
    A small sampling of events:
    Initial flight out of MIA delayed by 1 hr 45 minutes( connection time in FCO was 1hr 10 minutes), 5 agents at gate but not talking to customers (having a nice chat, though).
    “Modern’ Fleet? yeah, ok. No props is good…….
    Connection in FCO delayed (thanks to the airline gods)
    Return from BCN cancelled 40 minutes before flight (no day in Rome).
    Next day FCO/MIA , Wow! Anatomically correct graffiti on the inside Lav door?
    Oh, and poof goes the luggage!
    A flight attendant made the mistake of handing me a customer service card to fill out, and it kept me well entertained.
    Tallied 6 Intl and 4 domestic Rt’s this year (30 odd legs), and I would never have believed that an international carrier does not have one working number for lost baggage or customer relations…..
    Ok, worse than Skylink? Alitalia is setting the standard, thats for sure; Bravo Alitalia!

  17. BT stupid asshol. Alitalia is a female nome. So you should use the word Brava instead of Bravo! You stupid ignorant cow!

  18. Air France is the only reason for Alitalia’s perceived improvements as of late. The CAI group has no knowledge of the airline industry whatsoever, they are investors looking for a return on their money. AF is behind the scenes of all Alitalia’s operations and will be the eventual majority share holder in the company. AF is slowly but steadily taking over most sales activities and is reshaping the company to fit their mold.
    AZ will disappear completely in the next 3-4 years when AF is allowed to become the majority shareholder. The ‘new AZ’ is moving under the direction of AF. Alitalia would be heading for another bankruptcy if not for AF.

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