Three months have passed since that first Milan-Bari flight that marked the debut of Ita Airways, the airline born from the ashes of Alitalia. How are things going? Exactly one quarter has passed from last October 15th to today, and the first balance is certainly not exciting. Of course, he said that the timing with which the new carrier decided to present itself to the world was not exactly ” lucky ”. Indeed, from October to today the health emergency has only worsened, especially after the appearance of the Omicron variant, with the whole air transport sector that has inevitably paid the price of the surge in infections: flights canceled, passengers on the ground and companies in crisis.
Ita, the first balance sheet
After about three months of activity, the company recorded 86 million euros in revenues, 50% less than in the industrial plan, transported 1.26 million passengers and held over 400 million euros of the 700 paid in cash. from the Treasury. Data that does not make your eyes pop, also negatively influenced by the impact of the pandemic: that only between December and January there were 849 flights canceled. territorial with Sardinia, to the problems related to Alitalia employees, there are several factors that influenced the first quarter of the new national airline.
The causes of a slow start
The top management of the company, Alfredo Altavilla and Fabio Lazzerini, drew up the first balance during a long hearing before the Chamber’s Transport Commission. The executive president and the chief executive officer highlighted how Ita’s debut took place in a scenario that has gradually become more complicated due to various factors: ” One is the pandemic, which has had repercussions on international and intercontinental flights. We did not win the tender for Sardinia, assigned to a low cost company and instead it was in the industrial plan. In addition, we were unable to launch the advertising campaign for the sale of our tickets until October 10 ”.
The company has also had to deal with increases: “The price of fuel has increased by 15% and the euro-dollar rate has worsened by 5%”. But the news on the cash register is extremely positive. We closed the year with a cash balance of over 400 million euros, an improvement of 250 million compared to the forecasts of the business plan “.
“We – explained CEO Lazzerini – have had a constant growth in bookings and tickets sold. From October onwards we have had very significant growth in bookings and tickets sold week on week. With average growth of 50-60% per week week. But from mid-December the Omicron variant and the closure of some countries immediately impacted on the performance of ticket sales. In addition, we immediately intervened on the capacity to the market to avoid flying with planes filled to 20-30% due to lack of traffic. In December and January we canceled 849 flights, equal to 7.4% of flights scheduled on the international market, which was most affected by the pandemic “.
The ” loss ” of Sardinia
Another factor that contributed to the revenue shortfall compared to the industrial plan is the failure to award flights in territorial continuity to Sardinia. The connections with the Peninsula ended up under the control of the Spanish company Volotea, which was awarded the negotiated procedure. Starting from an auction base of 37 million euros, Ita had put 28.4 million on the table, with a drop of 8.5 million, an offer later surpassed by that of the low cost carrier: 21 million euros, as many as 15, 9 less than the starting figure and 7.3 compared to the Ita proposal.
The Spanish airline won the competition with a much more advantageous offer, with a decrease of 41.6%, thus winning the territorial continuity flights to Sardinia, in particular those between the Sardinian airports, Alghero-Fertilia, Cagliari- Elmas, Olbia-Costa Smeralda and the airports of the Milan-Linate and Rome-Fiumicino peninsula.
The future and the search for a partner
To cope with the emergency caused by the epidemic, the ” new ” Alitalia seems willing to seek solid alliances, a news also confirmed by Altavilla: “It is necessary to integrate Ita into an alliance with conditions of equal dignity , unlike what has happened in the past, because this is a long-term industrial solution that guarantees growth and positive economic results. right now in Europe, we are flexible by definition and we have a fleet and network sizing that lends itself very easily to integration within a larger entity and this is the reason that makes us particularly attractive “.
On the other hand, Ita’s current fleet is not up to the giants that dominate the market, and it won’t be in 2025 either, when the planes will double. Hence the need to find a partner, a complex operation, which the top management of the company aims to ” close ” within the first half of the year. The hottest name is that of Lufthansa, with the German model that seems to appeal to the leaders of Ita, while the main alternative remains the SkyTeam alliance, which is headed by Delta Air Lines in the United States and Air France-KLM.
The occupation and the ” Red Cross ” of Alitalia
An already quite complex and uncertain picture, to which is added the controversy over employment. Despite the demands of the unions, the new company has not expanded its hiring to former Alitalia workers. During the hearing at the Transport Commission of the Chamber, the executive president of Ita, Alfredo Altavilla, answered in no uncertain terms on the subject: “I am the president of Ita Airways and I do not manage the extraordinary administration of Alitalia. It is not my problem. I don’t care what happens to those people. Otherwise we will no longer become a company that has to stay on the market, but a Red Cross of the employees of the old Alitalia. And I have no intention of being so. “
“We interrupted – added Altavilla – the recruitment procedures due to the reduction in air traffic and therefore these people were not needed. Since it is taxpayers’ money, I had the difference between 2,800 hires estimated at 31 December, which was the the maximum number that the European Union allowed us, and the 2,235 we have on our payroll today. We have saved 17 million euros that would have been money lost by taxpayers “.
Finally, at the end of the list of the various nodes to be solved, there is the one linked to the open ara for the maintenance handling assets of the old Alitalia: “On handling and maintenance calls – explained Altavilla – we will ask for access to the data room on Friday and from that moment to enter into the concrete negotiations, which we have already started with potential partners. We are interested in ensuring our airplanes a handling and maintenance service at competitive costs with the market. That is to say that we are not interested in going to challenge the great giants of the handling and maintenance sector around the world “.
A complex picture that is affected by various factors, some of which are uncontrollable, such as the pandemic. But if the take-off was full of obstacles, the ” weather ” for the rest of the flight foresees turbulence.