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Turbulence: Alitalia's Future in Trouble

Carol Sottili

UPDATE: 1:30 p.m. Monday...The last of the airline's nine labor unions today signed on to a rescue plan, which means that the airline will continue flying for now. An investor group has made an offer, but it must find a foreign airline partner to make the plan work. Negotiations with Air France-KLM and Lufthansa are being conducted. Next deadline in the process is Oct. 15. Stay tuned.

UPDATE: 11:30 a.m. Thursday...Alitalia's chances of staying alive look brighter today as one of the key unions that had earlier rejected a rescue plan said it will sign on. Several other unions, including pilots and flight attendants, must also agree, and decisions are expected by 8 a.m. EDT tomorrow (Fri., Sept.26). Investors may include Air France-KLM.

If you have tickets on Alitalia, start making alternate plans. The airline took out ads in several newspapers in Italy and England yesterday soliciting offers to buy it. But if no investors come through, the airline may stop operating as early as the end of this week. Alitalia's bankruptcy administrator told the Associated Press on Monday the airline probably won't be flying past next Tuesday, Sept. 30, pending a rescue, adding that a rescue does not appear likely. (A group of Italian investors who withdrew an earlier offer to bail out the airline did meet again with a government representative today, but there was no word on an outcome).

Meanwhile, the airline is still selling tickets, and says, in a Sept. 5 statement posted on its Web site, "Alitalia will continue to operate flights in accordance with its schedules, honor reservations and tickets..."

Our advice: Don't buy a ticket on Alitalia (the airline does not operate out of any Washington area airport, but does fly out of New York). If you buy a ticket on one of Alitalia's code share partners, which include Delta, make sure it doesn't put you on an Alitalia flight: As of today, Delta was still selling tickets for Alitalia flights. If you are already ticketed through Alitalia, you may be out of luck. If past history is any indication, other airlines may step up to the plate and offer discounted fares for Alitalia customers, should it stop flying, but there are no guarantees. If you bought your ticket through a code-share airline on an Alitalia flight, they are not yet rebooking, but contact the airline immediately if Alitalia stops flying. As for getting your money back, contact your credit card issuer to see if you have recourse.

By Carol Sottili |  September 24, 2008; 11:52 AM ET  | Category:  Airline Industry , Carol Sottili
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I beleive that Alitalia operates out of Dulles with direct flights to Florence.

Posted by: richard | September 24, 2008 3:23 PM

No, Alitalia does not fly out of Dulles. I believe it did offer flights to Milan at one time, but no longer.

Posted by: Carol Sottili | September 24, 2008 3:43 PM

I was thisclose to booking a Rome vacation over Thanksgiving through an agency that works exclusively with Alitalia when I read this news yesterday. I think I switch to Madrid!

Posted by: Karen | September 24, 2008 3:51 PM

Carol, as always, thanks for your sage advice. At least we can always count on you out here!

Posted by: BizTraveler | September 24, 2008 4:30 PM

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