Alitalia Can’t Give Itself Away

The ongoing saga of Alitalia took another twist as the outgoing president of Italy, Romano Prodi, gave the ailing carrier a $469 million gift to ensure that they can keep flying until the new government comes to power in May.

The deal was almost made to sell the carrier to Air France/KLM. But the unions in Italy objected to the loss of jobs in Milan, and tried to play hardball with the biggest airline in the world. But it didn’t work–KLM walked away when the unions tried to play hardball, and even after this, the union bosses thought that the big player would come back.

NOT! With an aging fleet and difficult contracts, Alitalia has lost money every year for decades. But the European Union won’t allow the Italian government to keep propping the carrier up. When he was running for office, Silvio Berlosconi railed about how the airline should remain in Italian hands, and said there were Italian investors who would pop up and buy Alitalia. Now that he’s been elected, these “Italian investors” are no where to be found.

Why doesn’t he buy, it, he can afford it, and that way the union headaches, the old jetliners and the hundreds of mid-level managers will be his headache.