Alitalia’s last flight lands at Rome airport on Thursday. The Italian state airline has suffered losses every year since 2008. In the years before that, the company had already had to deal with financial problems. The new state airline is Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA), a slimmed-down successor to Alitalia.
ITA will take over a number of parts of Alitalia from Friday, such as part of the air fleet and a few take-off and landing slots at airports. The European Commission previously established that the companies differ sufficiently from each other economically – for example in the number of routes flown – so that there is no disguised relaunch. As a result, ITA does not have to pay Alitalia’s debts.
Alitalia has been technically bankrupt since 2017. A new owner was not found. The government has refused a takeover by easyJet or Lufthansa. Instead, the government decided to nationalize the airline in 2020.
Meanwhile, the government provided several bridging loans. The first, of 900 million euros in 2017, was disguised state aid, according to the European Commission. This gave the company an unfair advantage over competitors, forcing Alitalia to pay everything back to the Italian state. Brussels has yet to pass judgment on the second bridging loan of 400 million euros in 2019.
The airline was founded a year after the Second World War. In 2000 there was talk of a possible merger between KLM and Alitalia, but this was canceled by Italian politics. Air France-KLM resumed negotiations in 2008. The Italian government then approved the takeover. However, the deal fell through at the last minute because Italian unions rejected the planned restructuring. The airline was eventually bought by private investors, but they too were unable to save the company from bankruptcy.
Also read: The state must take care of the chronically ill Alitalia again