**Update: 24/04/20 @ 14:30 UTC – Comments from SkyTeam included**
Already in bad financial shape before the COVID-19 pandemic, Italian flag carrier Alitalia will now be under government control. Once the transition is complete, a new airline will take shape. Italy’s Economic Development Minister believes it can take-off within the first weeks of June. However, the airline’s new owners are evaluating a number of aspects as it transitions to a new company. Part of this is the re-evaluation of its SkyTeam membership.
Alitalia has been a SkyTeam member since 2001, when it joined shortly after CSA Czech Airlines’ entry into the group. Since then, it has flown alongside CSA and other European partners such as Air France and KLM in the world’s youngest airline alliance.
A smaller fleet without a SkyTeam membership?
According to Italian media, the new Alitalia will launch with 90 aircraft, compared to the 113 in the current fleet. However, news that is of equal magnitude is the fact that the new airline may not be a member of SkyTeam.
Economic Development Minister Stefano Patuanelli said the following to the media (translated from Italian):
“The transatlantic antitrust expires on May 21, that is, the period in which there is no longer codesharing with Delta and the SkyTeam airlines.”
Patuanelli goes on to mention the evaluation of a change in the airline’s alliance status. He says, “in this situation, with the market stationary, this issue is no longer a defining issue and therefore will be an assessment made by several heads…” Thus, the airline’s new administration and governance will evaluate whether or not a change of alliance will take place.
If an agreement is not renewed after May 21, then Delta would no longer be selling Alitalia tickets on the American market for flights to Italy. On that same note, tickets would not be sold by Alitalia for Delta-operated services.
Reaching out to SkyTeam, here is what a representative told us:
“SkyTeam is not aware of any members’ intentions to leave the alliance. These are unprecedented times for our entire industry, all our efforts are fully focused on supporting each of our members and their customers, now and into the future.”
The pros and cons of leaving SkyTeam
An airline that is part of an alliance particularly benefits frequent flyers. One-off travelers may benefit from increased itinerary options, but those who travel often would benefit in the following ways:
- Status recognition across other member airlines
- Flight credit recognition and redemption with other airlines
- Greater lounge access
Of course, joining an alliance also comes at a cost to an airline, which might outweigh benefits. While there might not be a straightforward annual fee or membership dues, an airline would be forced to accept award tickets from other carriers in the alliance. Thus, travelers from other member airlines could redeem their miles and points for flights for a carrier they’ve never actually purchased a ticket from.
A Lufthansa partnership?
It appears that the new Alitalia could leave SkyTeam and find support with another alliance. German carrier Lufthansa is proposing a commercial agreement with the new airline. The carrier was once considering an investment in Alitalia but eventually passed on the prospect.
Italian media report that this possibility has found the support of representatives of the M5S political party among others. Thus it appears that the prospect of a commercial alliance with Lufthansa is also on the table and will be subject to evaluation between several decision-makers.
We’ve seen quite a shake-up in the airline alliance world in the past two years. This includes China Southern and Air Europa’s departure from SkyTeam as well as LATAM’s departure from oneworld. Given the drastic circumstances that Alitalia finds itself in, especially in the midst of a pandemic, it wouldn’t be completely surprising if a huge move like this were to take place now as it attempts to redefine itself and its direction.
Would you be sad to see Alitalia leave the alliance? Let us know your thoughts!