Public, then private, now public again. Alitalia (AZ) experimented different formulas during its 74 years-long history. And it almost always lost money, with the Italian State needing to get more and more creative in order to camouflage its aids when the airline had become a private company in recent times. The last formula, after the failure of the Etihad affair, was that of the loan whose expiry date has been moved forward at least a couple of times in the last two years.
Then came the Covid pandemic and, like following a sort of natural instinct, Alitalia became totally public again: nationalized to prevent game over. While other major carriers around the world had to conduct sometimes arduous confrontations with their national governments in order to get the money for their business to survive, the Italian national airline was saved with a snap of fingers. With a new leadership (Francesco Caio as President and Fabio Maria Lazzerini as CEO) and with a portfolio of around EUR3bln to proceed with the renewal of the fleet. Which appears still quite remote, given the ongoing pandemic.
OUT THE BOEING 777S AND AIRBUS A330S
But four anonymous sources (apparently very near to the airline) revealed to Italy’s main daily newspaper, Il Corriere della Sera, the guidelines of the airline’s future. Which will be based on two aircraft for mainline operations, plus a third type for regional and feeding services.
Out the Boeing 777s, out the Airbus A330-200s and out the Embraer ERJs, the Boeing 787 will serve on the long-haul, with the Airbus A320 (in its ceo or, more probably, neo variant) on short-to-medium-haul routes, while the Airbus A220 will be used on regional routes or as a feeder into the carrier’s hub at Rome Fiumicino airport (FCO). Both the -8 and -9 versions of the Dreamliner will be bought to guarantee the necessary flexibility across a network which has the Americas as absolute protagonists.
HUGE DISCOUNTS FROM BOEING AND AIRBUS
The sources reported by Il Corriere della Sera even reveal the huge discounts Alitalia is expecting on the price of the 787s, with each -8 that would be acquired at the price of USD108mln instead of the listed price of USD215mln and each -9 at USD134mln instead of USD253mln. A discount of almost 50% on each aircraft. The numbers of the potential order have not been revealed, although before Covid Alitalia had a combined long-haul fleet of some 26 airplanes (12 Boeing 777 plus 14 Airbus A330-200). So, 20-25 should be the number capable to sustain a long-haul network similar to the one existing before the pandemic.
Regarding short-to-medium range operations, where Alitalia suffers enormously for the challenge brought to its business by the likes of Ryanair and easyjet, the fleet could be smaller than the current sum of Airbus A321 (5), Airbus A320 (38) and Airbus A319 (22). And standardized on the A320: Alitalia would pay EUR39.3mln (instead of EUR91mln) for each ceo, or EUR44.5mln for each neo.
THE REGIONAL ARM
The regional division of the carrier, Alitalia Cityliner, has already parked some of its ERJ-175 and ERJ-190 and the Brazilian jets will not be part of its future. Instead, AZ will opt for the Airbus A220, with a price esteemed at EUR31mln (instead of EUR73mln) for each -100 and EUR36mln (instead of EUR82mln) for each of the larger -300 series aircraft.
A Boeing spokesperson commented to Il Corriere della Sera saying that “the details of our deals with each of our customers are strictly confidential”. And the same comment arrived from Toulouse. But the newspaper reveals that Airbus would be in forcing with the new Alitalia bosses in order to win the long-haul order, too, with both the A330-900 and A350 on offer. But, assuming the Boeing discounts as credible, that would mean for Airbus to cut the price of its top products by something like 65-70%. And if the 330-900 is selling relatively slowly, the A350 has a backlog of 560 orders (as of July 31, 2020) and it’s highly unlikely that the European manufacture will decide to sell out its flagship product. (Photo header Wikimedia Commons / Alessandro Ambrosetti)