“Today, we are the largest single shareholder (in Alitalia), with a 49% stake. What did we see in Alitalia that nobody else did? A great brand, a great network, but a poor business in need of a new direction.” That’s what James Hogan, the then chief executive of the Etihad Aviation Group said in 2015 about his investment in the now-bankrupt carrier.
Perhaps other investors weren’t interested because of Alitalia’s penchant for burning through cash at a phenomenal rate. The latest estimates suggest the airline is losing around €1.65 million a day and the Italian government has already pumped €8 billion into keeping Alitalia afloat since it filed for insolvency in May.
It’s therefore just a little surprising that airline bosses have announced workers will soon be wearing a brand new designer uniform – the second redesign in less than two years. No wonder Carlo Calenda, Italy’s economic development minister recently called Alitalia “dysfunctional.”
But Alitalia says the redesign makes complete sense. They claim a “uniform restocking” will soon be needed due to normal wear and tear from everyday use. If you’re going to replace everyone’s uniform, you might as well redesign it as well they claim.
It also sounds like cabin crew and other staffers at the airline have raised issues about the current uniform. In a statement, Alitalia said they were responding to “numerous requests coming from operating staff” in a bid to “provide greater comfort and improve the quality of work for those who wear it every day.”
Acclaimed Italian designer, Alberta Ferretti has been chosen to design the new uniform. Commenting on the deal, Ferretti explained:
“Alitalia is a well-recognized and institutional symbol for our country. This is why I have welcomed the opportunity to create a special collection which symbolizes Italy and brings the best of Italian creativity, elegance and style in the world.”
The current iteration of Alitalia’s uniform was unveiled to the public in May 2016. Designed by Italian Haute couturier Ettore Bilotta and tailor-made by a team of 500, the uniform was said to be inspired by the “glamorous golden days” of 1950’s Italian fashion. All 3,500 cabin crew, as well as the airline’s ground workers, started wearing the uniform a few months later.
Bilotta’s expensive design was bankrolled by Etihad as it embarked on a massive rebranding of the airline. Etihad insiders often joke that they had to forego an annual bonus in order to pay for Alitalia’s new uniform. For this latest design, however, it looks like Italian taxpayers will be picking up the bill.
The Italian government is hoping to complete the sale of Alitalia to an outside investor by April 2018. Interested parties are rumoured to include both Lufthansa and low-cost carrier Ryanair. Both have said they would only take on Alitalia if they were allowed to significantly restructure the failed carrier. The new uniform should be ready by the summer.