Pilots union calls for government to act quickly on Alitalia revamp

FILE PHOTO: An Alitalia Airbus A320-200 passenger aircraft takes off at Fiumicino International Airport in Rome, Italy, January 15, 2018. REUTERS/Max Rossi

MILAN (Reuters) - Italy’s new government must act quickly to break the deadlock over the revamp of Alitalia, the trade union representing the airline’s pilots and flight attendants said ahead of state talks with the European Union on the planned nationalisation.

Rome has earmarked 3 billion euros ($3.61 billion) for a new airline, dubbed ITA, to replace Alitalia, which has been run by state-appointed administrators since it was declared bankrupt in 2017.

A state-supported flag carrier, however, needs the green light from the European Commission, which has asked for an open tender of Alitalia assets and is pressing for the new airline to forsake the old brand and some of its airport slots.

Alitalia’s administrator complained last month that it would take four to five months to organise an open tender, during which the company would accrue more losses, with the creation of its replacement pushed back to mid-summer.

On Monday Italy’s National Air Transport Federation (FNTA), which among others represents Alitalia crews, proposed the direct transfer of the sole aviation business from the old carrier to the new company, urging the government to push for this solution.

“It is essential to act quickly, having as a priority the transfer of the aviation (business),” FNTA said in a statement.

The union also asked the government to guarantee that the new carrier would retain the Alitalia brand and its airport slots as well as contracts to operate the carrier’s handling and maintenance activities.

Economy, transport and industry ministers on Friday said they intended to press ahead with nationalisation of the airline, adding that they would discuss its revamp with EU Commissioner Margrethe Vestager this week.

($1 = 0.8307 euros)

Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by David Goodman