Just for the record, I am an ex Alitalia manager, who developed a terrific franchise in a major US city and afterward got hit by 9/11 and the need for aircraft, then got severely injured, then could not go on, etc. etc.
To those of you who express really bad opinions about Alitalia, let me say this: Alitalia is Italian, yes. Alitalia has its problems and they are severe, yes. Alitalia doesn't know what it is doing....that, my friends is a matter of opinion, not only on this forum, but in Italy as well.
First and foremost, Alitalia believe it or not, can be a great airline. They have the infrastructure, the route net (MXP
apart), well maintained aircraft, excellent flight crews...and I mean EXCELLENT!. I have flown with a good many of them and I can tell you they are as professional and by the numbers as any US airline pilots with whom I have flown. They have challenges in certain areas of the company, but with the development of a true survival instinct, they can solve some of those problems. They do need some outside assistance to get past some of the "Italian issues" which bog down the airline. Aside from that, there is lots of potential here.
Cimoni has gotten concessions from the unions, then the plan to grow the airline is a good one. If you will note, they are purchasing LONG HAUL aircraft, not focusing on the European market, but the global market itself. They have ex pats all over the world that fly to Italy, a relatively loyal following at home. Remember, Italy is one of the top 5 destinations in the world. If they can develop those aspects of Italianness that people love while suppressing or otherwise working around those aspects of Italianness that drive us and them (yes them) nuts, then they do have a chance.
Now lets talk about fleet: Alitalia is building their fleet around three aircraft types: Embraer (short haul), Airbus (medium haul) Boeing (long haul). The 767s are configured for 205 seats, which means that even in Economy, you are not squashed like a bug. With that configuration, they can fly to thin routes of the US west coast and to Asia with no troubles except carrying large cargo.
They cannot afford the 7E7 right now. They are buying (and leasing back) the 767s because, yes they are cheap. Boeing is practically giving them away to keep the line going for another year until the 7E7 is more than a picture on a computer. The 777 has been a BIG success for them...passengers like it, cargo forwarders love it and it is economic enough that it can go to certain destinations in which cargo is big (LAX
?) and make the aircraft profitable just by filling it with cargo and Business Class passengers (there are many that fly to Italy from LAX
I would only ask on this forum that if you are going to bash Alitalia, that you state a reasonable reason as to why you think they are making mistakes, not because you dislike the airline or think Italians are idiots. There are certainly things that need fixing over there, the biggest thing they need to fix is the meddling of the Italian government. They have had too many management teams in the two years since I left the company to have any success of making a meaningful strategy work. Hopefully, they will let Cimoni do his job and stay out of it. The key to Alitalia's long term survival is that it becomes private. It can't do that unless certain things happen. Hopefully they will.
I for one have very deep feelings for the friends I have made at Alitalia during the years I was there, not just in the US, but in Canada, Italy, South America and Asia.
Please give them a chance...and if you don't have something that is useful for discussion on this forum, please use a little discretion.
David L. Lamb, fmr Area Mgr Alitalia SFO 1998-2002, fmr Regional Analyst SFO-UAL 1992-1998