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ITA Airways: reboot, fire, rehire

ITA (Italia Trasporto Aereo) Airways officially launched on 15 October, effectively replacing Alitalia as Italy’s proud flag carrier, that had held the title for 75 years. This has marked the reboot of the Italian aviation industry as we knew it, with major consequences for crew.

It’s no secret that Alitalia had been a struggling and loss-making airline for many years, with several re-launch and rescue attempts. But the final nail in the coffin came in 2017, when Alitalia was put under extraordinary administration. 

Enter ITA Airways, a state-owned start-up created in the middle of a pandemic and the biggest crisis to hit aviation. For the new airline to fly, the EU imposed several constraints on the Italian State, the main one being a total discontinuity between their airline Alitalia and ITA.

Since ITA was launched during a time where flying has taken a major cut, it needs much less aircraft, and crews. While Alitalia employed 1400 pilots, ITA at the very beginning would only require 550, and because of the discontinuity principle, all pilots would have to be made redundant and go through a formal selection process for a job at ITA. This has also proven a good opportunity to reduce terms and conditions on offer.

Former Alitalia pilots reacted with disappointment that the company has finally been terminated and the challenges they have to face: “Now, we have to undergo a selection process to re-gain our job in the same cockpit. This with pay severely reduced and seniority list almost non-existent”.

While understanding the difficult environment the new airline will need to navigate but hoping to form an adequate partnership with management, ANPAC, the Italian Pilots’ Association, has been fighting for the protection of the employment and working conditions of the crews.

All pilots would have to be made redundant and go through a formal selection process for a job at ITA

ANPAC believes the key to a successful Italian aviation industry lies in the creation of a truly representative contractual system. In Italy, individual airlines and general trade unions can opt for the so-called National Air Transport Contract (CCNL), a kind of bottom line CLA. This has resulted in a cut in labour costs of 35% at ITA. One of ANPAC’s objectives is therefore to improve terms and conditions as soon as possible.

“The current obsolete and inefficient national contractual system does not respond, and has never given answers to the real needs of the companies operating in Italy. It has proven ineffective in its purpose of guaranteeing a level playing field,” says ANPAC President Riccardo Canestrari. 

ECA supports its Italian member in its mission and hopes that the Italian institutions will pursue a constructive dialogue by giving space to the ideas and contributions of the ANPAC pilots to reach a positive outcome of this crucial page in Italian aviation. 

Only time will tell whether ITA can position itself as a new company capable of overturning a history of failures and proving itself able to seize the opportunities for the recovery of aviation while remaining socially responsible towards its employees.