jump to navigation

Alitalia is going down, down, down… March 21, 2008

Posted by dorigo in news, personal, physics, politics, travel.
trackback

I may look more anti-patriotic than I really am but sorry, I can’t help it – down with Alitalia! The airline, which is supported by the italian finances (Italy owns 49% of the company’s shares) and has lived of subsidies for years, is probably at the end of its tether. And I rejoice.

Alitalia is unable to stand on its feet – it has demonstrated that quite clearly during the last years, with huge losses in their balances and plummeting shares – and it is finally on sale. The last offer by Air France is humiliating – a hundred something Alitalia shares in exchange for each one of the french company – but it pictures well the rotten state of the deficitary italian company, and it runs the risk of being accepted, in the absence of any other meaningful offer. The only alternative for Alitalia is simply going broke, since the european union has already warned they will not allow further economical aids by the italian government.

On the other hand, we are assisting these days to the strumental use of the bad situation of Alitalia by Berlusconi, who claims he can guarantee a better, all-italian bid which includes his sons as financers. Just amazing: in a month, italians will have to decide whether to elect Berlusconi as the next premier, and he is offering to buy Alitalia! The conflict of interest of a tycoon who owns three television networks and newspapers is not enough: he now wants to buy the country’s airline, probably reasoning that he can then manouver from the government seat into increasing the company’s profits. In the five years as a premier (2001-2006), Berlusconi’s wealth increased threefold. Guess why. And the guy is doubly smart: he knows italians who love their country also hate to see the selling of Alitalia to France, and so his offer is going to win him more votes at the elections of April 13th.

Anyway, why am I happy about this rotten situation ? Well, if you flew Alitalia enough in the past, and had a chance to compare the service it provides to that offered by other major european airlines, chances are you will agree with me: it sucks. I have only found such a nasty mix of bitchy hostesses and stewards, bad service, and crappy planes in Air India, another company in my black list. I guess any frequent traveler has his or her own antipathies, and I invite you to write below your own experience. I can only tell you what was the last time I flew Alitalia, and what happened.

In May 2000 I had a post-doc position with Harvard and was based at Fermilab. I had to travel to Elba for a conference, “Frontier Detectors for Frontier Physics”, where I would present a poster on the muon system upgrade of the CDF II experiment (the paper, later published to NIM, is available at this link [coming shortly]). I reluctantly bought an Alitalia ticket to go from Chicago to Malpensa and from there to Pisa -Alitalia was not my best choice, but the ticket was the cheapest. The flight was not bad, but as I got into Pisa I waited for my suitcase for a full hour, and only then was notified the suitcase had been left in Malpensa “because it did not fit in the plane”. It was a small suitcase, certainly smaller than the ATR700 with which I had arrived in Pisa, but I did not object. I was told the suitcase would arrive with the afternoon flight and they would take care of bringing it to the Elba island.

Three days later, the suitcase was not there yet. I had been told I could buy some clothing, whose price would be refunded if I kept the receipts. I spent hours on the phone with Malpensa offices: the suitcase was nowhere to be found. Eventually, I found some charitable soul in a private office there, and the person went himself to check some racks where lost luggages had been placed. I got it the next day, and proceeded to put together a letter where I listed the items I had bought: a swimsuit, a pair of trousers, a t-shirt, some slips. I think it was about 150$ worth of goods. I of course could not include my telephone bills for the calls to Malpensa, which probably amounted to a third of that, nor other expenses I had ran into because of the lack of my suitcase. Then, I waited.

Three months later, I finally received a letter from Alitalia. It said they were sorry to be unable to process my request, because my letter -which duly included the ticket information and stubs, the receipts, and everything else- lacked a piece of paper they had attached to the lost luggage (and I never found). A lame excuse!

To summarize: they do not notify me that they voluntarily neglect to load my suitcase in Malpensa. Then they fail to let me know. I lose time in Pisa looking for it. Then they make false promises about the delivery. They are not helpful on the phone. It is only through my endless calls that the suitcase is found. And in the end, they refuse a minimal refund! 

I never flew Alitalia after that incident. And I am considering not flying Air France next – these kinds of cancers tend to spread.

Comments

1. SOBERSWAN - March 21, 2008

Same pain here with olympic airways.
It’s a shame but all the great things end up like that…

2. dorigo - March 22, 2008

Ah! Olympic Airways. I took it a couple of times. Not so bad… I did not know it was going broke too.

Cheers,
T.

3. mosse zidane - March 22, 2008

My experience told me that most european airlines are not generous interm of giving meals in their inflight services. I travelled in Alitalia from Rome to Nice. There’s an old stewardess who should be retiring already. A pack of biscuits was literally thrown at me to pick up. I am not prejudiced….. try Malaysia Airlines, you will find a lot of differences. Maybe other South east Asian airlines too of course SIA, Thai Air and other ASEAN airlines. I enjoyed flying Emirates as well. They serve Haagen Daz even in the economy class.

4. Anonymous - March 22, 2008

Alitalia, Air Canada, and Delta are all tied for second-worst, behind of course Aeroflot. These are the ones I refuse to fly anymore.

5. kusumataji - March 22, 2008

Alitalia and Air France fleeced me with such condescension, it could be the stuff of cinema. Be forewarned…

6. Guess Who - March 22, 2008

The whole idea of “national carrier” is sooo 20th century nationalistic, right next to “national car manufacturer” (fancy a FIAT, anyone?). Get over it already, airlines are just glorified bus operators and there is no sensible reason for states to mess around in the bus business, whether the buses have wings or not.

7. Amara - March 22, 2008

Totally agree and I hope they fall hard. I avoided Alitalia because of what I heard from everyone else, and guess what? The one and only time I flew them when I did not have a choice, they lost my bag. BTW, another story of Alitalia could come from Bee.

For those unlucky to still be flying that carrier and who haven’t gotten used to their frequent strikes, the next day to avoid planning an Alitalia flight is April 7, because the pilots are striking.

8. dorigo - March 22, 2008

Hi Mosse, I never flew with asian companies other than Air India. It is not the first time, though, that I hear a similar statement to yours about the good service of asian airlines.

Kusumataji, your comment is kind of cryptic. Can you explain better ?

Hi GW, I have to agree. The funny thing is that the most “nationalistic”, but on paper also the one most in favor of “free market”, of the two main italian parties is the one trying to throw the oxygen mask at Alitalia. This time it looks like Berlusconi is more patriotic than pro-free market. I think he is not even trying to lucrate on it, just doing electoral campaign.

Amara, nice pic on Bee’s blog. I sign up to be the next internet friend you meet in person. How far is Boulder from Albuquerque ?

Cheers all,
T.

9. andy.s - March 24, 2008

Maybe Alitalia should be broken up into smaller companies, named of course, for the cities they fly from.

There’d be Romitalia for flights out of Rome, Militalia, for flights from Milan, and then for flights from Genoa…

10. Amara - March 25, 2008

Tommaso: Distance between Albuquerque and Boulder is about 560 km / 350 miles. I.e. a good six or seven hours of driving (by car or two weeks by bicycle, which is my mode of transportation these months.🙂 )

11. dorigo - March 25, 2008

Good one andy… Amara, looks like too much driving for a drink. We’ll see if I find some cheap flight tho.

Cheers,
T.

12. chimpanzee - March 26, 2008

“Its pretty tough to fly like an eagle when you are surrounded with a bunch of turkeys.”
— Don Cherry, hockey commentator

I flew to Egypt for the ’06 eclipse, & got a “feel” of airline service from:

http://www.airlinequality.com/index.htm

I flew Lufthansa to Cairo (thru Frankfurt), & it was fine. I have a friend in Switzerland, who advised me not to fly Air France because of frequent strikes. I.e., no flight, I miss the eclipse.

I plan on going to NW China for this Aug. 1 solar-eclipse, & the American carriers have a lot of complaints. I checked out Asiana (Korean carrier), & they look good. Stewardesses bow before passengers (at start of flight), very attentitve.

I flew KAL (Korean Air Lines) in ’95 for my India solar eclipse trip, I was told they were reliable. I’ve had good results with Virgin Atlantic (to S. Africa solar eclipse in ’02), & British Airways (Zambia solar eclipse in ’01). I heard recently BA is having problems.

“Customer Service is the key”

I can see why airlines losing $$ are on the decline. Have to cut back on everything: food, maintenance, etc. Personnel morale (pilots, stewardesses, et al) declines, & it reflects on their performance. Not a good situation.

13. dorigo - March 26, 2008

Hi Chimpanzee,

yes, the cuts have a bad impact, but if the airline survives the conjuncture it usually can get back in good shape. I see you are a real eclipse-chaser! I envy you, I never got to see a total solar eclipse yet. And when there was one very close to home (1999) I was on the wrong side of the Atlantic!

Cheers,
T.

14. FP - April 8, 2008

ALITALIA SHOULD SHUT DOWN FOR A FEW DAYS FIRE EVERYBODY AND THEN REOPEN FREE OF DEBT LIKE EL AL DID AND RESTRUCTURE ITSELF WITH NO UNIONS AND NEW STAFF ALL EXCEPT FOR THE PILOTS AND MECHANICS I BELEAVE THEY ARE THE BEST OUT THERE I DONT CARE MUCH FOR SERVICE IM JUST HAPPY THE PLANE GETS ME WHERE IM GOING AND ALITALIA HAS A GOOD RECORD OF DOING THAT THEY JUST NEED TO TEACH THERE EMPLOYEES TO BE BETTER I BELEAVE THAT AIRLINE HAS ALOT TO OFFER IF THE WORKERS JUST SHOWED SOME PRIDE IN THERE FLAG CARRIER I LOVE THAT AIRLINE I FEEL ALOT OF PRIDE WHEN I SEE THOSE BEUTIFUL COLORS ON THAT BIG A ON THE RUDDER OF THERE PLANES MAYBE THE EMPLOYEES SHOULD SEE IT AS I DO IM SURE THEYLL SWEEP EVERYONE OFF THERE FEET WITH BETTER SERVICE THAT FLYS WITH ALITALIA AND SHOW THEM THAT ITALY ISNT A COUNTRY THAT SELLS CRAP THEY HAVE NO PRIDE


Sorry comments are closed for this entry

%d bloggers like this: