Mergers, privatizations, public aid and the entry of the State into capital, giving rise to a new brand. The summary of the history of Alitalia could be that of many of the so-called flag carriers that for years soared through the European skies (and crossed to the other side of the Atlantic). But the crises they have had to face, together with the advancement of a sector that increasingly measures costs , have led to the disappearance of the brands in which Europeans flew since the 20s and 30s of the last century.

The Italian flag carrier disappears, as we know it, after 75 years of operations , several bankruptcies, recapitalizations, controversial cuts, privatizations and millions and millions of public aid received to form a new brand with public capital . Since that September 1946 in which it began its flights, the Italian flag company has gone through all kinds of situations, but the culmination came in 2009 when pressure from the European Union and the situation of the sector in the rest of the continent forced its privatization .

But the accounts did not come out and the private investors chosen by the Italian Government itself began to encounter serious difficulties for Alitalia to have a niche in the international market compared to the large low-cost companies that in those years began to grow like foam. Etihad , an airline based in Abu Dhabi, tried but failed.

Alitalia requested assistance from the State in 2017 , receiving an injection of public money in the form of loans that were never repaid. Now, just a few days before the cessation of flights, scheduled for mid-October, the European Union has declared that aid illegaland has demanded that Italy get the money back. The new ITA , which will be the successor to Alitalia , will not inherit the debt and will significantly reduce the staff and fleet of the historic Italian flag carrier. Reborn so as not to die.

Other flag airlines
Lufthansa was, together with Finnair, KLM and Aeroflot, one of the first flag airlines to be born on the European continent. Those first Heinkel He 70s of the then called Deutsche Luft Hansa, which were used during the 1930s and which were used mainly to move mail, continued to fly until the end of the Second World War. After it, already in the 1950s, the allies allowed the federal government and the federal state of North Rhine-Westphalia to contribute the necessary capital to re-found it, already then under the name of Lufthansa .

Since then, it has experienced several crises, has received countless loans and public money transfersand it has saved other smaller companies from burning by taking them into its capital. But the Covid coup a little over a year and a half ago put it in check again and it was feared for its continuity in the market.

Many did not even get to face what has already been called the worst crisis in the sector in all its history . This was the case of Swiss-Air, which , as will now happen with Alitalia and ITA, went bankrupt to make way for a new company, with a very similar name, Swiss International Airlines, in 2002. Olympic Airlines also suffered a very similar path. , the Greek company that would give rise to the current Olympic Air.

Hard years
The first years of the new century were hard for the sector, which began to see consolidations such as those that are now flying over Europe again. This was the case of Air France and KLM, two of the large flag airlines of France and the Netherlands, respectively. Both firms joined in 2003 in an operation in which Alitalia sounded like a third leg that would later be discarded.

Years later, the other great consolidation operation of the air sector in the Old Continent would arrive, the creation of IAG . Two years of negotiations served for the British British Airways and the Spanish Iberia to form the great conglomerate of airlines, which would later be joined by other flagship firms, such as Aer Lingus, in 2015.

Outside the EU, the Russian Aeroflot , with public capital, is one of the few flag airlines that remains afloat alone. The firm continues to recover the frequencies from before the Covid and will resume its flights to Spain this week.

By Rak Esh

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