Alitalia's final weeks flying marked by protests, apologies

Alitalia’s final weeks flying marked by protests, apologies

ROME (AP) — Italy’s failing national airline Alitalia told passengers on Tuesday to just bring a single piece of hand luggage when travelling, given the intensifying strikes and labor protests that are disrupting services ahead of the airline’s planned Oct. 14 demise.

In a series of tweets, Alitalia apologized to its customers and blamed the disruptions on union meetings that “over the coming days could result in delays in the services provided by Alitalia.” A single piece of hand luggage would ensure more timely luggage deliveries at destinations, Alitalia said.

Alitalia, which has been in the red for more than a decade, is due to formally exit the airline market next month and be replaced by a new national carrier ITA, or Italy Air Transport. The European Commission has given the go-ahead to a 1.35 billion euro ($1.58 billion) injection of government funding into the new airline, but ITA is only planning to hire around a quarter of the estimated 10,000 Alitalia employees.

Those employees have been protesting for weeks. A national strike is planned for Friday to demand better treatment and respecting previous contracts. On Tuesday, employees staged a new demonstration in Rome after unions and the ITA board failed again Monday to reach a deal.

“It is not acceptable that around 7,500 employees, who are left out of the hiring plan, have to lose their jobs and have no income support,” said Stefania Fabbri, representative of Fit-Cisl union in the Lazio region. “We want solid prospects, in terms of salaries and of relocation of employees.”

Italy’s Economy Ministry announced in July that ITA would replace Alitalia and would launch on Oct. 15. Alitalia has said it plans to keep flying through Oct. 14.

ITA had planned to start operating about 2,750 to 2,950 employees in its aviation sector, raising the number to 5,550-5,700 by the end of 2025.

The deal to create ITA also called for slashing the number of airport slots, especially at Rome’s main Leonardo da Vinci airport. Milan’s Linate Airport, popular with business travelers since it’s close to Italy’s financial and fashion industry capital, will also see some slots reduced.

Among its routes, ITA plans to operate flights to New York from Milan and Rome, and to Tokyo, Boston and Miami from Rome. Destinations from Rome and Milan’s Linate airport will also include Paris, London, Amsterdam, Brussels, Frankfurt and Geneva.

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