The Italian Government said today that it would secure the future of the embattled national flag carrier Alitalia in a €600 million taxpayer-funded bailout. Alitalia has been under special administration since May 2017 when equity investor Etihad Airways pulled the plug on further funding for the heavily loss-making carrier.
Plans had been drawn up to finally put the whole or parts of Alitalia up for sale at the start of March before the Coronavirus pandemic gripped Italy and rocked the entire aviation industry. Those plans have now been scrapped and the Ministry of Economy and Finance will form a State-owned business to take over Alitalia.
Initially, €600 million has been pledged to keep the carrier afloat throughout 2020, with more funds expected to be released later. Alitalia has only once turned a profit – back in 1993.
The European Commission has said it will relax State Aid rules paving the way for government’s across the continent to plough billions of Euros into keeping airlines afloat as the Coronavirus crisis plays out.
Alitalia has also requested emergency funds to keep paying around 4,300 staff who might otherwise face redundancy.
Despite grounding the majority of its fleet, Alitalia continues to operate some limited services even with Italy in a state of lockdown. The airline says it is working with the Crisis Unit of the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs to repatriate as many Italians stranded abroad back home.
Earlier today, Alitalia sent a special evacuation flight to the Maldives to get some citizens home. But with an entry ban on Italian’s entering the Maldives, Alitalia has been forced to make a technical stop in Egypt to swap over crew so that the flight can be legally operated.
Alitalia will continue to operate two daily flights to and from New York and London in order to allow Italian and foreign citizens, including many students, to return to their places of residence.
Earlier this week, the airline told passengers that they must wear a face mask onboard its flights. Passengers will be expected to bring their own masks and anyone without one faces being offloaded.
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