The Alitalia sale drama is almost over, as the consortium of companies who are preparing to save the doomed Italian airline requested yet another extension for the bid to submit a business plan earlier last month. The deadline given by the Italian government has been extended five times already, making it, funnily enough, a normal occurrence.
Alitalia has been struggling for the past few years, as a result of the rise in low-cost airlines around Europe, among other factors. All of the government’s attempts to privatize the Italian airline to this day have all failed. In 2014, aviation giant Etihad bought shares in the airline, but Alitalia’s situation failed to improve, as they kept on losing money. In 2017, Etihad pulled out of the Alitalia deal and the airline was forced to declare bankruptcy.
For the past two years, Alitalia has been running mostly thanks to the Italian government’s financial support, which is running tight. Italy has been looking to sell its airline’s shares, however, it wished to keep 51%, in order to maintain Alitalia as a flag carrier. After a long search, a handful of companies, which had an interest in saving Alitalia from their uncertain future, formed a consortium in order to design a plan to buy shares in the failing airline.
Initially, airlines such as Ryanair, WizzAir, easyJet, and Lufthansa, were rumored to have some interest in Alitalia. However, the final companies willing to put together a plan were the Italian railway group Ferrovie dello Stato (FS), infrastructure-owning company Atlantia, and American carrier, Delta Airlines. Ferrovie dello Stato would be leading the consortium which is set to save Alitalia from its dreaded fate.
Nonetheless, the group of companies have yet to come to a final decision, and Alitalia’s days seem to be numbered. Some of the issues still on the table include the airline's inclusion in the Blue Skies Agreement, which has been set up between potential stakeholder Delta Airlines, the Air France-KLM group and UK carrier Virgin Atlantic. In addition, Alitalia’s unions have expressed their disapproval with some of the project’s ideas. As a result, the new deadline for bids was rescheduled for October 15; just 9 days.
However, this umpteenth request for an extension of the bid is a signal that Alitalia’s future is uncertain. The consortium’s inability to finalize a plan, combined with the union’s unsatisfaction with the proposed projects so far have complicated the situation. In addition, the Italian government does not have sufficient funds to further inject into Alitalia, which have been the airline’s lifeline for the past two years. The FS-Delta-Atlantia consortium must finalize their project and submit it as soon as possible if they wish to invest in Italy's flag carrier.