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:
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.
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.