Alitalia has cancelled a number of flights from its Rome hub, stoking fears that the end may be nigh for the troubled Italian national carrier.
However the airline has denied it has run out of aviation fuel, and blamed its cancellation of some 30 flights on “technical issues”.
Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi is under pressure to bail out the airline after the investor group he has been backing withdrew their bid.
CAI, led by Piaggio Chairman Roberto Colaninno, pulled out of talks to take over the bankrupt Italian national carrier after six out of nine unions rejected its proposals. These would have led to around 3,000 job cuts and employees forced to work more hours for the same pay.
Unions argued that the job cuts were higher because thousands of part-time and temporary workers will be cut. The unions, representing most of the 7,000 pilots and cabin crew, continued to seek concessions until a deadline for a decision expired yesterday.
“We may be on the edge of the abyss,” Berlusconi said yesterday after news that CAI had withdrawn its bid. Berlusconi’s, just four months in his new premiership, meets with his cabinet in Rome today to discuss Alitalia.
Alitalia would become the first major European flagship airline to collapse since Swissair Group and Sabena of Belgium in 2001. The airline has been losing US$3m a day and is feared will run out of funds by the end of this month. It filed for insolvency on August 29 to allow the state-backed rescue to begin.
Silvio Berlusconi earlier attacked the unions, describing their behaviour as “suicidal intent” and claiming that extremists were exploiting the crisis to inflict damage on his right-wing coalition.
“There are political motives at work that have got nothing to do with the interests of the workers. The Left wants to hit at the government without giving any though to the disaster that this could cause to the whole country,” he said.
As part of his election campaign, Berlusconi insisted the flagship carrier must remain in Italian hands, closing the door on a possible white knight takeover by KLM-Air France.
Government-appointed bankruptcy commissioner Augusto Fantozzi earlier warned that Alitalia might have to start grounding flights because it was having trouble securing fuel for its planes.