Late on Thursday night Alitalia will make its final flight. AZ1586 from Cagliari to Rome is scheduled to depart at 22:05 local time, arriving in Rome at 23:10. And on Friday morning a new airline will take its place. Conveniently, also operating as Alitalia, at least in part.
The Italian government officially launched the new operation as Italia Trasporto Aereo (ITA). But that was more about avoiding EU scrutiny for illegal subsidies than branding.
And, on the eve of the business transition, the public sale of the Alitalia brand closed. In a move that should surprise absolutely no one, ITA won the bid. And at a steep discount to the initially proposed rate.
Officials launched the tender at 290 million euro (~$341 million). The final price was just a third of that, 90 million euro.
That the money is essentially being paid by the government to itself, albeit from new funds to the black hole of the old operation, adds to the amusement.
This is not the first time an airline bankruptcy concluded with a new flag carrier taking over from the old one. Swissair became Swiss International Airlines in 2002, for example. And Belgium’s SABENA (which is an acronym meaning “Belgian Limited Company for the Exploitation of Aerial Navigation” and I love that) became SN Brussels Airlines in 2001, which became just regular Brussels Airlines in 2007.
In both of those cases, however, there was at least an effort at changing the name, even if minor.
UPDATE (15 OCT):
In a somewhat unexpected, but also very Alitalia, twist the new company now says it does not plan to use the branding in its operations going forward. Instead it will use the new ITA Airline name and a new livery with a blue fuselage and tri-color striping on the tail.
The €90 million was spent simply to prevent others from buying the brand.
The company previously indicated its intentions to still use the AZ IATA code and “Alitalia” call sign for its operations and ATC communication. Day one flights in Europe are carrying the ITY ICAO code rather than AZA. But schedule filings still reflect the AZ IATA code. So parts of Alitalia continue to live on, even if the main branding disappears a bit.
Alitalia’s plans depend heavily on keeping that brand alive. Maybe that’s a mistake, given the operational and financial reputation it carries. But that’s what the Italian government wants. And so that’s what will happen. It does save them a decent bit of cash on repainting planes (except that one special livery) and rebranding all the airports. Maybe not the full 90 million euro worth, but it is substantial.
- Is the Alitalia brand really worth $340 million??
- Europe clears Alitalia debt from successor ITA
- Alitalia Due (a/k/a Italia Trasporto Aereo) applies for US service
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