THE apparent sabotage of two Alitalia planes could have caused a major tragedy, the head of the Italian pilots’ union said yesterday on the eve of emergency talks to save the debt-ridden state-controlled airline.
Two MD80 aircraft — the backbone of the Alitalia fleet — were damaged in a hangar while undergoing maintenance at Naples airport last week. The incidents appear to be linked to the talks between Romano Prodi, the Prime Minister, the management and unions on job cuts and investment that come after months of strikes and protests over restructuring plans.
Airport officials said that cables were cut in the tail section of one aircraft and the seal around the rear door of another was ripped a day later. Alitalia said that the sabotage did not put flight safety at risk because it was spotted in time by maintenance workers.
Fabio Berti, head of the Italian pilots’ association, said that the attacks were extremely serious and could have caused a massacre. It was unclear who the perpetrators were, but worrying that they had access to a “super-protected” area.
Signor Berti said that it was not the first time that Alitalia planes had been sabotaged. Some reports had suggested that sabotage was part of a strategy of tension to raise the stakes on the eve of today’s meeting but, Signor Berti told La Stampa: “I cannot believe anyone would be so irresponsible.” The Naples prosecutor is investigating the incidents, which trade union officials said reflected a drop in standards of security and maintenance.
Giancarlo Cimoli, Alitalia’s chief executive, recently acknowledged in a report to parliament that the airline — in which the State has a majority stake — was doomed unless radical changes were made.
Alitalia is expected to lose €300 million (£203 million) this year. Attempts to cut jobs and privatise ground services have been met with repeated strikes and walkouts, causing flights to be cancelled or delayed and passengers stranded. A new plan involving the sale of its information technology and administrative activities is bitterly opposed by the unions. Italy is under growing pressure from the European Commission to stop bailing out Alitalia. The commission is considering whether a proposed €1.2 billion “recapitalisation” amounts to an illegal state subsidy.
Alessandro Bianchi, the Transport Minister, said that the Government’s aim remained to develop Alitalia, not to sell it off. He admitted that potential European partners such as Air France and KLM had refused to consider a merger until Alitalia’s outlook improved.
Signor Cimoli said that Alitalia was unable to generate a return on invested capital and the more flights it operated, the more money it lost. He blamed regulatory inefficiencies and energy and labour costs, but also the “unfair competitive advantages” enjoyed by low-cost airlines. “The law of the jungle prevails,” he said.
While budget airlines have hit Alitalia hard, critics say that the blame lies with governments of Left and Right who have bailed out the airline with bridging loans instead of drastically restructuring the workforce of 20,000 and encouraging private investment.
|Quoting N701AA (Thread starter):|
Wow...I've heard of ground equipment been sabotaged, but an aircraft?!!! It takes a very sick mind to do something like this. I am glad it was discovered in time to save a tragedy. And the sad part is that it's not the first time it happens...
|Quoting Connies4ever (Reply 2):|
Simply unbelievable ! I hope those responsible can be ID'd and then
persecuted to the fullest extent possible under italian law.
|Quoting BAtriple7 (Reply 1):|
Alitalia said that the sabotage did not put flight safety at risk because it was spotted in time by maintenance workers.
|Quoting BAtriple7 (Reply 1):|
Italy is under growing pressure from the European Commission to stop bailing out Alitalia. The commission is considering whether a proposed €1.2 billion “recapitalisation” amounts to an illegal state subsidy.
|Quoting Eatmybologna (Reply 8):|
I am to beleive that subsidizing businesses is legal and widely accepted in Europe because of their socialistic democratic ways.