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Alitalia’s first flight to Washington Dulles Airport arriving on May 2, 2019 (Photo: AirlineGeeks | Fabian Behr)

Sale of Alitalia’s Handling and Maintenance Units Completed, ITA Airways’ Privatization Continues

With the newly-founded Italian flag carrier ITA Airways still in the process of being sold off to a major airline group, the liquidation proceedings of its ancestor Alitalia which ceased operating last October are finally coming to an end.

The 74-year-old Alitalia was broken off into different business units prior to the shutdown of its flying division in October, with the handling and maintenance arms of the company to be auctioned off separately, as decided by the bankruptcy tribunal following the instructions of the European Union that was trying to ensure a suitable business discontinuity between the old Alitalia and the new ITA Airways.

During the past week, the extraordinary commissioners that have been handling the Alitalia receivership for the past three years have essentially concluded their work by completing the sale of the handling division of Alitalia to Swiss handling giant Swissport, and the sale of Alitalia’s maintenance division to Atitech, the Italian privately-owned MRO company based at Capodichino Airport in Naples, Italy.

The offers from Swissport and Atitech were presented earlier this year and preliminary agreements were signed on March 14, the Financial Post reported.

Almost 10,000 Jobs Preserved

The Italian government approved the sale of the two units for an undisclosed price, and this contextually takes care of the biggest problem that was left unsolved from the Alitalia bankruptcy: job preservation. According to the Italian newspaper Il Messaggero, of the 10,440 people that were still employed by Alitalia on Oct. 15, 2021, the date the company formally ceased to exist, more than 4,000 were employed in handling or maintenance — 2,700 people have now been reabsorbed by Swissport and a further 1,400 are now on Atitech’s payroll.

Between former Alitalia employees that have already been hired by ITA Airways and others that will be reintegrated by the end of the year, approximately 9,600 people of the original 10,440 have been reassigned to other companies, a percentage the government claims to be between 90% and 95%. The fate of Alitalia workers after the company’s demise has always been a major stumbling block in all the attempts made throughout the last decades to permanently solve Alitalia’s chronic inability to turn a profit and to align itself with the productivity levels of its competitors.

ITA Airways To Be Privatized by June

After more than 7 billion euros ($7.6 billion) of taxpayers’ money have been poured into the airline’s coffers since 2008, Alitalia finally ceased flying last October and was replaced by a smaller, state-owned airline called ITA Airways roughly half the size of its predecessor.

Now the Government has decided to privatize the airline selling it to a larger group in order to enable ITA Airways to be more competitive in the international marketplace. After establishing plans to completely renew its fleet with a large order of short-haul and long-haul Airbus aircraft, the carrier will be sold to the highest bidder among the interested parties, which at the moment include a joint venture between Italian shipping company MSC and Lufthansa, the U.S. equity fund Indigo Partners, already owning stakes in European LCCs such as Wizzair, and another U.S. equity fund, Certares, proposing a commercial partnership with Delta Air Line and Air France-KLM.

The deadline to present expressions of interest is April 18, which will also be the date when interested subjects will get access to the data room. The Italian government expects the sale to be completed by June 20, Italian newspaper Il Corriere della Sera reports.

Author

  • Vanni fell in love with commercial aviation during his undergraduate studies in Statistics at the University of Bologna, when he prepared his thesis on the effects of deregulation on the U.S. and European aviation markets. Then he pursued his passion further by obtaining a Master’s Degree in Air Transport Management at Cranfield University in the U.K. followed by holding several management positions at various start-up carriers in Europe (Jet2, SkyEurope, Silverjet). After moving to Canada, he was Business Development Manager for IATA for nine years before turning to his other passion: sports writing.

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