As an ex airline guy ( amongst many other jobs) I have been following the Alitalia story this week. Union officials spilled the beans earlier this week by claiming that the company from this Saturday would be unable to fly as the fuel company supplying it here in Italy was to pull the rug on the credit line. Quite quickly the story was confirmed by the Board who said they just needed to raise €300 million and life would be good again for a time at least. The airline has not made a profit since it’s last restructuring 5 years ago when , yes you guessed it, they said give us some cash and we can turn it around.
Understandably the shareholders and creditors aren’t quite as keen this time around to stick in more dough and so by Wednesday the Board had followed the Unions into beating down the door of our leader Sr. Letta fresh from his own triumph over Bunga Bunga. Of course we all know that State aid is a strict no no in the E.U. but hey this is the E.U. and well rules are more guidelines than strict rules aren’t they. Rules are what you announce to the financiers, guidelines are how you implement them.
So today I got an e mail from Alitalia offering me a 20% discount if I booked and paid in full today or tomorrow for travel between 04 Nov and 24 Dec. So an airline that can’t pay it’s fuel bill from tomorrow is willing to give me 20% off if I risk losing my money hmm
To be fair 20% is not a real discount which either shows a certain naivety in the marketing department or that the bean counters in Alitalia aren’t very serious about raising cash fast and are therefore expecting some kind of EU fudge to help them out. I was in the States during the dying throws of TWA and Pan Am and boy those babies were almost giving the seats away to try and keep some cash flow going.
In fact as I type this I am seeing on the newswire that the Board is considering an investment from the Italian Post Office of some €100 million and are expecting a further investment from the Italian Train Network. With this they say they expect creditors and shareholders to follow suit and snap up the remaining chunk of money to keep them going.
Oh boy here we go again. Who owns the Italian Post Office and The Italian Train Network err the government. So indirectly the Italian government is about to invest huge sums of tax payer money into an enterprise that not only fails to make money but has done little or nothing to improve the running of the airline for years and years. And the reasons the government give is so Rome doesn’t become a minor hub in an Air France route map meaning politicians would have to fly Ryanair and to protect jobs.
A studied silence of course from the E.U. on this backdoor method of state support and more surprisingly given the millions they are paid a year, from the financiers that buy Italian debt. Guys this is the same man doing this who you believe is going to bring in meaningful and draconian labour reforms to change Italy into a UK/German model to end the recession, quadruple inward investment and open up Italy to real competition. Except he not even willing to let a dying duck do the right thing and die.
Anyway enough of this; I have a small announcement to make. I am off to England tomorrow for a week. I have to see my aged Mum and sort out some boxes and other bits and pieces from a no longer aged aunt who shuffled off this mortal coil in February . Now as this blog is called Here in Puglia I can hardly write it from the UK so you lucky people are going to have a week off. Okay okay less of the cheers please. You’ll miss me. I hope!
I am actually looking forward to going back. I haven’t been there for a year. I always feel sorry when I read on expat forums of people asking about life in the new country and listing loads reasons why they want out from the UK. I didn’t leave the UK – I came to Italy and there is a big difference. We actually didn’t leave there anyway we left Cyprus and that was after working in Florida so for us the UK was never on the radar as a place to settle. Still as I said I enjoy it when I’m there even though each night I look at the credit card receipts and am in awe at how people live there full time. I do love the pubs and am really looking forward to my first pint of bitter
Don’t you just love we have an Aussie showing us how to pour a pint. He comes from a country that pours it’s beer through a hosepipe into the glass !
So tomorrow will be my last post for a week unless I get homesick and post from the UK when I find a computer to work on. Sunset rather than the Last Post then.