Alitalia facing bankruptcy: What caused its demise?

The Italian airline Alitalia has initiated bankruptcy proceedings. After a bailout plan failed, the airline is to be put under special administration and this will be the end of the road for it unless someone steps in to save it. The press examines the reasons for the decline of this once so proud airline.

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La Repubblica (IT) /

Triumph of the budget airlines

La Repubblica sees Alitalia's bankruptcy as a clear consequence of competition from the budget airlines:

“The low-cost airline is the winning model - at least on the Old Continent. Those who try to compete against it without submitting to a complete overhaul are doomed to failure. ... The Italian airline - too small to compete with Lufthansa, Air France and the like on the long-haul routes - tried to do this. Now we see the result: a disaster. ... Since they can't win out against the low-cost airlines the prestigious old airlines flying the EU skies have decided to emulate them. Iberia and British Airways founded Vueling while Lufthansa is trying to protect its home market from the seemingly unstoppable offensive of the air 'pirates' with Eurowings and the purchase of Air Berlin. … The low-cost model is spreading. To the delight of the consumers, who for once can have the last say with their choice.”

Tages-Anzeiger (CH) /

Logical end to a chain of errors

The case of the struggling airline Alitalia can be seen as a reflection of the country itself, Tages-Anzeiger explains:

“It is notoriously opposed to reforms, as the recent rejection of a major overhaul of the political system shows. It is sceptical about changes resulting from globalisation, which can no longer be avoided at the national level. To be competitive one has to face the challenges of these times. But Alitalia always acted as if it lived in a different era. What was likely the final act, the memorable No to the bailout plan, was enough for [the Rome-based paper] Messaggero to conclude that all sense of reality had been lost: 'The madness is emblematic of the entire story, the logical ending of a long chain of errors.' Unless of course there is a Plan B. Or a C, D or E this time around too.”

Die Presse (AT) /

Italy's flying railway

The Alitalia business model is anachronistic in Die Presse's view:

“National transport companies, protected by governments and shielded from competition by powerful trade unions, have had their day in Europe. Those who refuse to acknowledge this will sooner or later be brought back to reality with a big bump. In the air travel sector we've been seeing this process for years, whereas when it comes to railway travel (where different systems, national market protection mechanisms and the lack of a standardised communication language have led to an unbelievable market segmentation while lorries travel from the North Cape to Sicily unhindered) this message still hasn't sunk in. To want to turn doomed Alitalia into a kind of flying railway in such an environment doesn't seem like a very visionary approach.”

Neue Zürcher Zeitung (CH) /

Airline burned through tax money for too long

There is no alternative but to close down the Italian airline Alitalia, the Neue Zürcher Zeitung believes:

“The strongest argument against Alitalia's continuation in its present form is that it no longer enjoys the Italian people's trust. Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni won't be keen to brush aside this change of heart on the part of Italy's frustrated taxpayers. Although nothing is really clear, it appears that over the last two decades Alitalia has burned through ten billion euros in tax money. And although the company's various recapitalisations always smelled of public subsidies, Brussels also shied away from exercising its veto. What's more, the Alitalia management hasn't presented anything like a transparent financial statement for years now. The good news: even without Alitalia the country wouldn't be cut off from the world. Ryanair is growing fast in Italy and outstripped Alitalia in terms of traffic two years ago.”

Avvenire (IT) /

The employees' irrational rebellion

Irrationality, miscalculation and childish rebellion are behind the workforce's decision to vote against the rescue package, Avvenire complains:

“Those who think they can save their salary and improve their working conditions by saying No are behaving irrationally. Those who believe the state will nationalize the airline are miscalculating. … And those who prefer to be unrealistic and deny rationality, mediation and compromise, are rebelling. This is a rebellious movement that has spread rapidly in recent months and was reflected in the manifold and contradictory No to the constitutional reform. A revolt that is not only irrational, but also tends to negate the role and the arguments of the political representatives when they champion change.”