Unions reject plan to revamp Alitalia, ask to double new carrier fleet

MILAN, Jan 28 (Reuters) - Italian trade unions on Thursday strongly criticised the business plan presented last month for the launch of a new, state-owned carrier that aims to replace ailing Alitalia.

Alitalia has endured 12 years of turbulent private management and three failed restructuring attempts. Lately, the government has been seeking to nationalise and relaunch the carrier after the pandemic scuppered plans to sell it.

Under the nationalisation project, the government plans to inject 3 billion euros ($3.64 billion) into a new company dubbed ITA that would take over the assets of the old Alitalia.

In a document seen by Reuters, which was presented at Thursday’s closed-door hearings in parliament, Italy’s four main trade unions for transport workers said that the fleet size proposed for the new carrier was “totally inadequate”.

“A full service carrier, such as ITA, cannot be efficient with a minimum starting fleet size of less than 100 aircraft, with a medium-haul/long-haul ratio of around 70/30,” the trade unions said.

In December, ITA CEO Fabio Lazzerini said the new carrier would start flying between April and June with 52 planes and up to 5,500 staff, nearly half the levels of the old Alitalia.

Lazzerini said that the fleet and the workforce of the new carrier could gradually increase accordingly with the recovery of the air traffic market.

According to the four unions, a 100-aircraft fleet for ITA should be “the starting point for a plan that guarantees a minimum level of market control”.

“Otherwise the carrier will relinquish its role and it will be handed over to competitors, both major and low cost (carriers),” they said.

Unions also said that layoffs of part of the 11,000 Alitalia workforce were “unacceptable”.

In a separate document seen by Reuters, trade unions for pilots and flight attendants called for ITA to develop a cargo business and asked for the new carrier to start with the staff needed to operate an 86 airplane fleet. ($1 = 0.8245 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini; Editing by David Gregorio)