ITA Inherits the Title of Worst Airline Ever

Alitalia

I know you’ve been waiting for this post, and really, I was just waiting to confirm that a) the new airline actually flew, b) the new airline did in fact decide not to keep the Alitalia name, and c) the new airline would fly more than a month. Those hurdles have been met, so allow me to present the new Worst Airline Ever, ITA.

ITA really is just the newest incarnation of Alitalia, so this official transition shouldn’t even be necessary. But the curveball of using the different name, well, that’s just enough to push it over the edge.

Alitalia has been the reigning Worst Airline Ever for more than a decade. In that time, it has failed and been reborn more than once. This latest change would have been no different if it weren’t for those pesky EC commissioners.

The European Commission was so sick and tired of all the money flowing into Alitalia every time it failed, that it decided this time around to make the newest airline be truly separate. Of course, that’s impossible, because both entities are/were owned by the Italian government, so it’s all just about setting up Chinese walls.

The Italians’ goal was to create a new airline that would be free of the debt that hung around the last version of Alitalia which they royally screwed up since it was first born in 2015. That version — the one that Etihad invested in and lost badly — took just over 2 years to go bankrupt. The airline had been in limbo since 2017, because the government wouldn’t let it fail.

The EC’s goal was to make sure that if the debt didn’t follow the new airline, there would have to be much more separation than in the past. The new airline had to be a separate entity, of course, and it couldn’t just inherit the Alitalia name. It had to buy it in an auction if it wanted it. It also couldn’t take over the old MilleMiglia frequent flier program, and it couldn’t take over some ancillary businesses, like the maintenance organization. It would have to acquire its assets from the old airline in an arm’s length transaction at market rates.

So, the new ITA was born, and it is much smaller than the old Alitalia. At least, that’s how it’s starting, but it still does have growth plans. But that growth, apparently, will be with newer, cheaper labor and newer, more expensive airplanes.

On the labor side, well, people are mad because they no longer have jobs. The flight attendants are livid, with several protesting by taking their clothes off. Seriously. They stripped down to their undergarments, and why? Because they want the government to provide them with five years of unemployment benefits. Italy is a very strange place.

The reality of the situation is that Alitalia hasn’t been competitive in ages, and it hasn’t been relevant in years. The long-haul market is well-covered by other airlines, and the short-haul market is dominated by low-cost operators that can get Italians pretty much anywhere. There is no reason for Alitalia to exist. But that will never stop the Italian government.

If you were worried that the new ITA would be far more competent than the old Alitalia, fear not. Early moves suggest the airline is just as ridiculous.

First up, there was the brand auction. The auction was limited to airlines with operating certificates, so that thwarted my plan to open Al Italia’s pizza joint. No airline met the minimum €290m bid in the first round. In the end, to the surprise of absolutely nobody, ITA won the auction with a bid of a mere €90m.

In a plot twist that nobody saw coming, however, ITA opted to buy the brand and NOT USE IT. This is real. ITA bought it so that it could squat on the brand and prevent anyone else from using it. Yes, because there was so much demand for it…. So ITA is already throwing money out the window.

That’s not all. The airline has been around for less than a month, and it has already gone through a branding change. This was the initial logo:

ita-logo - Air Data News

And then shortly after, ITA switched to the more Alitalia-like one at the top of the post. Why? Because you can take the people out of the airline, but you can’t take the Alitalia out of it. Brand comes first. That also explains how they ended up with this rather complex new aircraft livery.

ITA Airways: All about the new Italian airline | CNN Travel

The designs on the tail and rear fuselage seem overly detailed, and the blue body feels unnecessary. But I’m sure there’s something very stylish about this that I’ve missed.

In other news, ITA has decided to join Skyteam, replacing Alitalia in the airline’s previous partnerships. This seems like a strange move since Lufthansa has and always will have an unhealthy obsession with the Italian market. It seems likely that Lufthansa would be a more willing partner than Air France/KLM, but I guess it’s best to stick with the one you know.

The bad news for ITA is that as far as I’m concerned, it is the clear successor to Alitalia, EC be damned. That means it will continue to own the title of Worst Airline Ever until it proves otherwise. It is not off to a great start.

33 comments on “ITA Inherits the Title of Worst Airline Ever

  1. ITA will just go down the same path as Alitalia, losing money until the government has to step in and pump in more case, throwing the EU state aid rules out the window – the EU will make all sorts of noises and then do bleep-all about it…wash, rinse, repeat. The EU only took action this time because the debt load had gotten so big that no one could pretend Alitalia could ever dig its way out any more.

    On the FAs, I could see giving FAs (or any other redundant staff) a longer benefit if they’re only a few years from retirement. but five years for everybody? Insane.

  2. Where is all this money coming from and going to? For example, what is the source of the 90 million euro branding fee? Isn’t that the Italian government paying itself?

    1. The theory (and I emphasize “theory”) is that the new company, while capitalized by the Italian state, is now supposed to operate commercially and be self-sufficient, and that any payments it makes to the Italian government are arms-length transactions between a purchaser and a seller of assets. The purchase of the Alitalia IP is presumably being justified to keep someone else from buying it and launching a new airline using that name that would compete with ITA.

      This is, of course, absolute rubbish and is likely indicative of ITA probably intending to eventually rebrand as Alitalia, and (as Brett points out) the new management being just as willing to set fire to large bundles of money for no value as the old management was.

      1. I disagree. Many airlines when merging or buying another purchase the logo, certificates, etc., so no one can use them. For instance, you won’t be seeing a new TWA unless AA creates a commuter airline and names them TWA, like with Piedmont. We’ve seen the bastardization of the likes of Pan Am and Eastern with their certificates etc., being sold over and over again. I just don’t see any benefit of ATI rebranding themselves at some later date.

        1. Wouldn’t AA have to actively use the TWA trademark to protect it? Do they have some tiny subsidiary doing something that is named TWA?

          1. @Oliver – Not sure how long the IP was initially protected after AA stopped using it, but they now license it to the TWA Hotel at JFK so it is in active use.

          2. The TWA heritage livery qualifies as using the brand. Just like how Exxon and other oil companies maintain the Standard Oil trademark by having one station in each of their states branded as “Standard”

        2. I don’t see any benefit of anyone using the Alitalia brand, which is why I still think it was a waste of money for ITA to buy it.

  3. “The Italians’ goal was to create a new airline that would be free of the debt that hung around the last version of Alitalia which they royally screwed up since it was first born in 2015. That version — the one that Etihad invested in and lost badly — took just over 2 years to go bankrupt. The airline had been in limbo since 2017, because the government wouldn’t let it fail.”

    Where have we herd this one before… oh yeah, the 2008 financial crisis. As the old saying goes – “if you are to big to fail, then you are to big to exist.” But as we all know, we will here about this story again in just a few short years when ITA fails with every commenter here faking shock & surprise when it occurs.

    “The flight attendants are livid, with several protesting by taking their clothes off. Seriously. They stripped down to their undergarments, and why? Because they want the government to provide them with five years of unemployment benefits. Italy is a very strange place.”

    It’s not strange at all if you no & understand the local culture. Also so what if the FA’s decided to strip in protest. Being naked in the EU doesn’t carry a negative social stigma as it does here for some stupid reason. Perhaps we should have some of our FA’s try stripping while in flight & put it on social media for all to see as a way to start breaking this prudeish social taboo we have.

    1. 1. The problem with TBTF is that the people at the top have both a lot of taxpaying workers and politicians by the short hairs. If, say. American, Bank Of America, or one of those were to go under, a whole lot of innocent people will go down with the ship. Guess who will take the blame. So sometimes gotta hold your nose and make the lesser of two evil choices. How we got there is another discussion.

      2. America isn’t “really” prudish. Not at all. The American society seems to more or less center on women keeping men in a constant state of sexual arousal while simultaneously depriving most of them of it. Why do you so many ladies go so far out of their way to say “look at me”, then when men do, they turn around and say “don’t look at me you creep”.

      Also, another discussion.

    2. I don’t think the “strange place” remark was about the nudity so much as about the idea that you should get five years of unemployment benefits when your employer has to reduce staffing.

      Or that there’s no logical connection between the nudity (or, in this case, being in undergarments, not completely naked) and that they should get the five years of benefits.

      Or both.

      The idea that they’re entitled to five years off because their employer went under is pretty strange, and that’s not just an American attitude. Except (as I mentioned already) for staff close to retirement, I can’t imagine any Western country other than Italy with workers thinking they’re entitled to this much idleness. (Perhaps France.)

  4. I think that Milan and Rome could best be served by the “Athens” model where the (highly seasonal) long-haul demand is best served by American, Middle Eastern and other European carriers. I could see Lufthansa or LEVEL stepping in with some long-haul. and possibly Emirates or similar.
    I don’t know how you compete with Ryanair, EasyJet and Wizz on short haul without a STRONG long-haul network to facilitate connections. I wish them luck!

  5. I’ll give them credit for not going with a painted tail and then have the rest of the plane in Euro White. At least they tried something somewhat original.

  6. I actually think that buying but not using the old brand is a necessary move rather than a stupid one, although they did overpay.

    If ITA decided to switch back to any of the old branding right away, the EC and probably other European airlines would be on their case in an instant even if it were completely legal. And nothing good would come from letting anyone else get it. Imagine if Lufthansa or any other competitor bought it and used it on flights to/from/within Italy. Too much chaos, even for the Italians.

    1. In theory, I agree with you. As a practical matter, though, who would want it? Just here in the US, look at how many times names were bought and used on new service: PanAm, Braniff, Eastern (which is still around but they’ve changed the branding so much there’s no visible connection with the original Eastern anymore), Midway, and that’s just off the top of my head. (The new version of Frontier has done well, though.)

      Although I have to admit Lufthansa would be tempted, they can never seem to have enough brands to confuse passengers with. Here in Tampa, when our service to Frankfurt restarts it’ll be “Eurowings Discover” instead of “Lufthansa Cityline” (which at least said “Lufthansa” on the side.) People who don’t follow these things are already wondering who the hell “Eurowings Discover” is.

      But LH would be more likely to go with something like “Eurowings Cityline Italy” just to totally confuse everyone, including, one suspects, themselves.

      1. Nobody would want it as an actual brand, but I can totally see Ryanair buying it just to get attention or be a copyright troll since the designs are still pretty similar.

  7. The livery is egregious in its ugliness, and a big surprise for a company rooted in a country known for style, flair, and innovation. I hold zero hope that ITA will succeed where Alitalia failed. Italy’s structural labor issues remain largely in place and as a government owned entity, ITA will be beholden to Italy’s chaotic politics and the outsized influence of its labor/trade unions. Aegean is the model ITA could and should follow. It won’t.

  8. I will continue to pitch for Surinam Airways as an honorary Worst Airline contender. In the last 12 months: it retired its 747, it bought a used Singapore Airlines 777 which they could not operate to AMS due to not having the right paperwork, and then when they finally did, the plane had so many technical problems it was grounded, and Surinam commissioned Air Belgium’s A340 to operate the flight (on a route at which they compete with KLM and TUI). In the mean time, their sole two B737’s were grounded by the lessor due to unpaid bills, stranding passengers in Miami and Paramaribo. So for months they have been an airline without any actual planes. The government has piled in millions, and this in a nation that has significant poverty rates and is at best a developing nation. Surinam’s airport meanwhile has stated an ambition to become like an Abu Dhabi, Qatar or UAE hub. And Surinam Airways allegedly has signed a lease for an old South African Airways A330. I truly believe this is a worthy challenger to ITA.

  9. Perhaps one of the reasons why ITA purchased the name Alitalia was because someone remembered what happened to Aer Lingus, back when the Irish government was a principal shareholder.
    The government decided to sell it, and while no one was looking, Michael O’Leary came along and snatched up a large share-holding – and held them to ransom for a considerable time before selling it at a nice profit.
    (Then IAG came along and bought the whole thing)
    But, to loose any control over any part of it was probably a concern for the Italian government – and therefore they effectively maintained control over every aspect of it – including the old and new names.

  10. “The designs on the tail and rear fuselage seem overly detailed, and the blue body feels unnecessary. But I’m sure there’s something very stylish about this that I’ve missed.”

    @CF, when you mentioned the blue, I recalled seeing Italy’s short track speed skating team sporting light blue as their primary uniform color around 20 years ago. I did a quick search and found it has to do with the house of Savoy and their role in creating a unified Italy.
    https://www.thelocal.it/20210726/why-do-italian-athletes-wear-blue/

  11. Farewell Alitalia. Always Late In Take-Off, Always Late In Arrival.
    Ever wondered why the Pope always kisses the ground at airports? Because he flew Alitalia….
    Only ever flew AZ twice. The second time was to see if the first time was an off-day. It wasn’t.

  12. @Oliver – Not sure how long the TWA IP was initially protected after AA stopped using it, but they now license it to the TWA Hotel at JFK so it is in active use.

  13. Man, I would love to own the paint shop that has their aircraft painting contract…. until ~16 months in, when things start to go South!

  14. You might want to consider adding SAA as a co-worst airline ever. There are quite a few airlines that have been plagued by debt, poor labor relations, and government interference. It is not an Italian only issue.

  15. Yes, I HAVE been waiting for this post, and you didn’t disappoint! Very happy to see this rolling train wreck live on as it provides a virtual endless amount of material for you.

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Cranky Flier