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Alitalia spruces up with new colours – and WiFi

Alitalia on Thursday unveiled a new look for its planes in a revamp initiated under the partnership with Etihad Airways that saved the Italian carrier from bankruptcy.

Alitalia spruces up with new colours - and WiFi
A rebranded Alitalia jet. Photo: Andreas Solaro

The green band that has adorned the fuselage of Alitalia jets for 46 years has been dropped along with the predominately green colour scheme in cabin interiors.

The tailfin retains the red, white and green of the Italian flag but has been made bolder and more distinctive with the addition of black lines through the red.

Greys and reds now dominate inside the plane with tan and brown leather touches in economy and full leather seats in business class that have been designed by Italy's Poltrona Frau.

Wi-Fi internet access throughout planes, new menus and entertainment packages and Etihad-style on-demand dining in business class are also part of the makeover.

CEO Silvano Cassano said the strategy was to reposition the airline as representing the best of Italy in terms of style and hospitality and the high service standards set by Etihad.

“Alitalia wants to be a premium airline,” Cassano told reporters in a hanger at Rome's Fiumicino airport, where the first redesigned Airbus A330-200 was unveiled.

The plane, named Artemisia Gentileschi after a 17th Century Italian artist, will make its first flight from Rome to Etihad's Abu Dhabi hub on Friday.

James Hogan, the Australian CEO of Etihad, said Alitalia had benefited from €1.76 billion of investment since Etihad acquired a 49 percent stake at the end of last year.

“Alitalia has huge potential,” he said. “It is a legendary brand of aviation but one which has suffered from a lack of direction over many years.”

Hogan said 1,000 Alitalia staff had already been for training in Abu Dhabi with the aim of fostering “a performance culture in which promotion and recognition are based on performance not on who you know.”

That was a pointed reference to the airline's past reputation as a bastion of nepotism and cronyism that contributed to the high costs which brought it to its knees.

Cassano said the new Alitalia would be operated on strictly commercial lines, free from political interference.

“As CEO my obligation is to do what is in the interest of shareholder and the government and trade unions are not shareholders. We are a new aggressive company. That means no alibis, we don't give anything away.”

Italian Prime Minister hailed Thursday's announcement as the start of a new era for the company and a symbol of the country's openness to inward investment.

“Fasten your seatbelts, because we are really taking off,” Renzi said.

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AIRLINE

Italy insists €3bn cash injection for Alitalia is ‘not another rescue’

The Italian government announced plans on Thursday to inject at least three billion euros ($3.2 billion) into Alitalia to help save it from collapse in the face of the coronavirus pandemic.

Italy insists €3bn cash injection for Alitalia is 'not another rescue'
Alitalia check-in counters stand empty at Rome's Fiumicino airport during Italy's lockdown. Photo: AFP

Economic Development Minister Stefano Patuanelli told the Senate the money was aimed at turning the struggling company into the national airline it had been throughout much of its 74-year history.

“This is not another rescue,” Italian media quoted Patuanelli as saying. “This is the company's relaunch.”

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Prime Minister Giuseppe Conte's government in March announced plans to renationalise Alitalia as part of a broader economic rescue package.

It then earmarked 500 million euros in support for the entire aviation sector.

The company filed for bankruptcy in 2017 and looked doomed in January when it failed to secure rescues from either the Italian state railway or Germany's Lufthansa.

Alitalia's management had asked government administrators in March to allow it furlough 4,000 of its 11,000 employees until more passengers are able, and willing, to fly.

The carrier's main trade union announced an agreement Thursday to suspend about 6,600 employees for seven months.

Patuanelli said government administrators intended to keep Alitalia's current fleet.

“There is no downsizing at the company,” the minister said.

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