Alitalia: For Sale, Cheap?

Unless something happens behind the scenes with negotiations between the unions and the “good company” CAI (the “courageous” entrepreneurs who kindly offered to buy all of the good bits of Alitalia), it looks like the “good company” has been ditched at the altar.

With less than a week to go, Alitalia is going up for sale, according to news reports, although as of this writing, the announcement that is supposed to have gone up on the web site isn’t there yet. Berlusconi, in a true spirit of an open, competitive market, said yesterday that CAI is the “only alternative”. That’s probably true at this point, given how the whole deal was carved up for their exclusive consumption, rather than simply putting Alitalia’s assets up for auction in an attempt to recoup as much money as possible for their creditors, which include the Italian taxpayers. Perhaps that will finally happen once the airplanes are no longer allowed to fly, but until then, and perhaps even afterwards, we’re going to be seeing a series of “really, truly, finally, this-time-we-mean-it, last-ditch, hail mary” attempts to stitch things together between CAI and the unions.

One ray of light in this dark mess is that the government will not nationalize the airline, which would have continued the farce indefinitely.

What still isn’t clear from what I’ve read is what the unions hope to gain by telling off CAI. They certainly made those of us who want to see the whole thing implode happy, but given that their careers are on the line, that seems like slim pickings. Some of them may have hoped for nationalization, but that’s apparently completely off the table (although I would never say never with Alitalia). There’s talk of another airline like Lufthansa or Air France getting involved, but I can’t imagine they’d want to deal with the stinking carcass of Alitalia; better to wait until it’s really, truly dead, with a silver stake through its heart, and buy up the good bits piece by piece, and hire up people they need one by one.

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