Alitalia: The Decline of a Great European Airline

After protracted negotiations between the Alitalia Management, the C.A.I., the Italian Government and the trade unions, the "Phoenix Plan" proposed by the C.A.I. was finally signed by all stakeholders - out of spite for some of them - at the end of September. The plan will have bad social (and potential safety) consequences; the Italian Pilots' Associations (ANPAC and UP), supported by ECA and the International Federation of Airline Pilots' Associations, call for respect of pilots' safety decisions, independent pilot representation and for a sustainable business plan.

In April 2008, Air France-KLM withdrew their offer to buy the company, after Mr. Berlusconi opposed the French "colonisation". Since then, the financial situation of Alitalia continued to worsen until it was declared insolvent in August. In early September, the Phoenix Plan was presented to stakeholders, who were given two weeks to sign it. Under the pressure of Alitalia losing its license for operations and the threat from the C.A.I. to withdraw, the pilots' trade unions finally signed the agreement at the end of September. However, the C.A.I. did not honour their agreement with the pilots and further downgraded terms and conditions.

What are the implications? Obviously, substantial job losses. All Alitalia workers will be dismissed, and only part of them will be hired again. Roughly 7000 Alitalia employees will lose their jobs, including almost 900 pilots. They will remain on a sort of "waiting list" valid for seven years, from which the C.A.I. management will draw when needed. For the pilots concerned, this will result in the risk of losing their licenses.

For the employees who will have their job 'saved', their terms and conditions will deteriorate substantially (one single contract for all workers, cut in holidays and days off, etc.). Independent pilot representation will also suffer as all workers will be represented by one single entity, which will negotiate directly with the management. The independent voice of safety professionals will thereby be lost. Already now, many safety-related decisions by pilots are questioned by management, with several being subject to disciplinary action. Last but not least, the C.A.I. business plan raises many questions about its viability. No other airline in Europe is successfully and safely flying as many aircraft with as few crew, or at the level of productivity imagined by C.A.I. management.

ECA has been closely following this issue with ANPAC. At their General Assembly in November, ECA Member Associations unanimously voted to support ANPAC/UP in their battle. On 5 December, a further Press Release was sent to the European and Italian press, underlining our concerns and calling for "a competent, professional airline management, free from political interference".