An Alitalia Christmas : Can Alitalia Save Its Self From Alitalia?

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25/12/2008 – An Alitalia Christmas : Can Alitalia Save Its Self From Alitalia?

Weather delays and cancellations wreaked havoc on flyers in North America in the days leading up to Christmas. Chicago O’Hare (ORD) once again proved unreliable canceling more than 650 flights over two days, however none of this compares to Alitalia’s ability to create massive logistical and public relations problems for its self.

Earlier this week, as Italian travelers set off to start their Christmas week travel, Alitalia’s baggage handlers and ground support staff walked off the job in protest as Union Officials met with management. I understand that labour and union issues with Alitalia are far more complex than with other airlines, but these disruptions simply kill customer confidence in an airline seeking to be rebranded, relaunched and reintroduced to the world in the next month.

In total 140 flights were cancelled from Alitalia’s hub at Leonardo da Vinci-Fiumicino International Airport (FCO) in Rome due to labour walking off the job.  These cancellations affected not only domestic travel in Italy, but also intra-Europe flights and long-haul travel to North America.

What were the baggage handlers and ground support protesting?  The negotiations with CAI to reduce the size of Alitalia, and streamline the carrier to make it profitable.  Alitalia’s labour has long been under the delusion that they can continue with ‘business as usual.’ The problem with ‘business as usual’ has killed the airline, proven the carrier to be unreliable, had the airline referred to as a ‘national embarrassment’ by senior government officials, and most importantly caused Alitalia to shed flyers in massive numbers.

I believe Alitalia’s streamlined operation under CAI , and its merge with AirOne can be successful. I have been extensively researching the airline for more than a year and see a number of ways the airline can reemerge and be a strong player in the European airline market.

The first thing that Alitalia needs to do is address labour issues and get them on the same side, or at least in the same ball-park, on the future of the airline. Labour needs to understand that if they continue with their actions there will be no airline and they will have no jobs.   After this major problem is addressed, Alitalia needs to go on a major multi-platform marketing campaign and do everything possible to attract, regain and retain flyers.

As much as I see a lot of room for Alitalia’s growth and success in the future they need to deal with ‘today’ and get their management and labour to work together. If management and labour can’t work together Alitalia will never have the chance to reemerge and be reintroduced to the world.

Happy Flying!

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