Times Online – Italian national airline Alitalia collapses

The bankrupt Italian airline, Alitalia, collapsed today after a consortium of Italian industrialists withdrew its offer to buy the carrier.

Silvio Berlusconi, the Prime Minister, said: “We are facing the abyss.” Luigi Angeletti, head of the UIL union, one of three unions that had accepted the bid by the Italian Air Company (CAI), said that the collapse was “a catastrophe for Italian society and trades unions”.

The collapse comes after weeks of brinkmanship, with unions banking on being able to squeeze further concessions from the consortium and calculating that Mr Berlusconi, who had put his prestige on the line to find an “Italian solution”, would not allow it to fail.

The end of the talks spells doom for a carrier that has been a proud national symbol of Italy for more than six decades, flying the Italian tricolour, but which has suffered from chronic labour disputes and mismanagement, aggravated more recently by crippling fuel costs. …

Mr Berlusconi, who had earlier said that he was “still optimistic”, blamed the leftwing union CGIL, which held out against the deal, for causing the crisis. CGIL had tabled a counter proposal together with the pilots union and other smaller unions involving further negotiations, but CAI members said that it was too late.