Transport: Alitalia and other Italian airlines at risk, ENAC

Foreign low cost wins, Riggio; Doomed to disappear, Ragnetti

13 June, 17:16

(ANSAmed) - ROME, 13 JUNE - For Italian airlines, the increase in the number of passengers (+6.5% in 2011) was not a harbour in the tempest of the financial crisis. The ENAC Chairman Vito Riggio warned that Italian airlines risk "disappearing" due to competition on prices, which continue to decrease steadily. For traditional airlines "the profit is cut", while low-cost airlines "become stronger". In Italy, the market was conquered by the Irish company Ryanair and by the English company Easyjet. The Alitalia CEO spoke out against the obstinacy in imposing "taxes and duties"; "sooner of later," Ragnetti said," Alitalia will either disappear of change its owner".

The debate draws inspiration from the 2011 ENAC report: the number of passengers in Italian airports totalled 147.9 mln passengers, nearly 9 mln more than the previous year. However, "there are still critical issues in property, financial and economic terms", a "general state of difficulty" for Italian airlines. "They are all suffering losses,'' Riggio points out; regarding the crisis, the Alitalia CEO detected "further signals of loss in the first four months of 2012".

The government is due to react with two long-awaited measures.

The national plan on airports is due to be launched by the end of the summer (the plan is aimed at making the airport network more rational, after the "actually excessive" increase in the number of small, non-competitive airports); by the end of this year, the remaining plan agreements with two airport management companies (Venice and Rome, the agreement on the Fiumicino airport is of a strategic nature) are due to be signed. This will allow the issue on tariffs to be solved and, therefore, significant investment plans encompassing the possible entry of foreign investors would be unblocked. The Minister of Development and Infrastructures, Corrado Passera, stated this, urged by the Chairman of Assaeroporti and ADR, Fabrizio Palenzona, who reminded the Minister that other times in the past a solution had seemed to be close but later ended up "lost in the labyrinth of an anti-Italian bureaucracy''. A letter from the Ministry of Infrastructure allegedly containing the first signs of openness arrived yesterday to Fiumicino; for the Leonardo Da Vinci airport, this could pave the way to an intermediate solution on airport fees over the EUR 3 per passenger increase required by Adr. According to experts working on the report, such solution might make all parties happy.

Also Riggio pointed his finger against the extra-costs, a real burden for airlines: the halt to State's aids for ENAV's services, for example, might cost Alitalia EUR 50 mln in 2013.

The airline's CEO, Ragnetti, talks about irrational obstinacy.

"In the past two months, Alitalia had to face a sudden EUR 100 mln increase in structural extra-expenses and I can assure you that it is hard for us to understand the rationale behind them.

It appears to be mere obstinacy," Ragnetti said. The CEO warned: ''It's hard to think about aggressive expansion plans, requiring significant investments, when you spend your time fighting against new taxes and duties." (ANSAmed).

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