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ITA: Italian government approves privatisation of new national airline

Italy's government on Friday agreed to the privatisation of ITA Airways, the successor of Alitalia currently being eyed by Lufthansa and MSC.

Alfredo Altavilla, president of ITA Airways, at the airline launch.
Alfredo Altavilla, president of ITA Airways, at the airline launch. Photo: Handout/ITA Airways

Cabinet ministers were presented with “a decree… to start the process of looking for a partner for ITA”, Finance Minister Daniele Franco told a news conference.

He said there was no timing yet, and it could be through “public offer or direct sale”, but “the government will maintain a minority share, not a controlling share of ITA, that could be sold at a later stage”.

German carrier Lufthansa and MSC, the world’s biggest container shipping company, expressed an interest last month in acquiring a majority stake.

The government has decided to open up the sale to all potential bidders, despite a request by MSC and Lufthansa for a 90-day period of exclusivity in the negotiations.

ITA, which began operating in October out of the ashes of loss-making Alitalia, is valued at between 1.2 billion and 1.4 billion euros, a financial source told AFP.

Italy had tried for years without success to offload the loss-making carrier Alitalia, which was placed under state administration in 2017. It accumulated losses of 11.4 billion euros between 2000 and 2020 before being closed down last year.

Its situation was made worse by the coronavirus pandemic, which grounded airlines worldwide.

“A sale to MSC and Lufthansa could be the last chapter in a history that has already cost the taxpayer too much money,” said Andrea Giuricin, a transport economist at Milan’s Bicocca university.

He told AFP: “ITA Airways will not be able to survive on its own, without the support of a major European airline. In the first two and a half months of its existence, it lost 135 euros per passenger carried.”

Italy pumped 700 million euros ($800 million) into ITA in 2021, with two further injections of funds expected this year and next, totalling 1.35 billion euros.

The next tranche of 400 million euros is due by the end of March.

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COVID-19 RULES

Reader question: What are Italy’s Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Italy's quarantine rules have changed so many times over the past couple of years, it can be hard to keep track. Here's the latest information on when and how visitors need to self-isolate.

Reader question: What are Italy's Covid quarantine rules for travellers?

Question: “One of your recent articles says you can exit quarantine by testing negative for the coronavirus. But you can also exit quarantine by obtaining a certificate of recovery from Covid-19… true?”

Unfortunately, official proof of having recovered from Covid-19 won’t get you out of the requirement to self-isolate if you test positive for Covid while visiting Italy – though it can shorten your quarantine period.

The health ministry’s current rules state that anyone who tests positive while in Italy is required to immediately self-isolate for a minimum of seven days: that’s if the person in question is fully vaccinated and boosted, or has completed their primary vaccination cycle, or was certified as being recovered from Covid less than 120 days ago.

That period is extended to 10 days for those who aren’t fully vaccinated and boosted, or those who recovered from Covid or completed their primary vaccination cycle more than 120 days ago.

In either case, the infected person must have been symptomless for at least three days in order to exit quarantine (with the exception of symptoms relating to a lost sense of taste or smell, which can persist for some time after the infection is over).

READ ALSO: Travel in Italy and Covid rules this summer: what to expect

The patient must also test negative for the virus via either a molecular (PCR) or rapid antigen test on the final day of the quarantine in order to be allowed out.

Read more about getting tested while in Italy in a separate article here.

Quarantined people who keep testing positive for the virus can be kept in self-isolation for a maximum of 21 days, at which point they will be automatically released.

Italy does not currently require visitors from any country to test negative in order to enter its borders, as long as they are fully boosted or were recently vaccinated/ have recently recovered from Covid.

READ ALSO: How tourists and visitors can get a coronavirus test in Italy

Some countries (including the US), however, do require people travelling from Italy to test negative before their departure – which means visitors at the tail end of their journey could be hit with the unpleasant surprise of finding out they need to quarantine for another week in Italy instead of heading home as planned.

It’s because of this rule that a number of The Local’s readers told us they wouldn’t be coming on holiday to Italy this summer, and intend to postpone for another year.

If you are planning on visiting Italy from a country that requires you to test negative for Covid prior to re-entry, it’s a good idea to consider what you would do and where you would go in the unlikely event you unexpectedly test positive.

Please note that The Local cannot advise on specific cases. For more information about how the rules may apply to you, see the Italian Health Ministry’s website or consult the Italian embassy in your country.

You can keep up with the latest updates via our homepage or Italian travel news section.

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