Regular readers will know we're keen observers of the Italian state basketcase. Exactly a year ago we were reporting that the organisation's then chairman, Maurizio Prato, believed Alitalia was 'comatose'. Well it's amazing what life support a ready supply of free government cash can achieve. Today Alitalia is still in the air, although questions are now being asked whether they have the fuel to see out the week.
Those of a harsh mind might say this has been some time coming - the airline has only managed to turn a profit once, in 1998, since it was set up in 1946. Now things are utterly desperate the fur is really flying. The Italian premier Silvio Berlusconi has accused recalcitrant unions of 'suicidal intent' and is blaming the demise on left-wing extremists. However it was his insistence that the airline remain in Italian hands that has caused the latest impasse. That ruled out a pontential rescue by KLM-Air France.
As always, a fudge is the likely result. The loss of political face involved in seeing Alitalia go out of existence is far too much for the thin-skinned Berlusconi. The Pope, incidentally, was requested by staff to pray especially hard for the airline this weekend. He normally travels in a chartered Alitalia 777 which goes by the name of 'Shepherd 1'. If this winds up in the Arizona boneyard we feel sure Ryanair will be willing to accommodate his Holiness with a seat somewhere near the back of one of their aircraft. And provide him with three 'Bulls Eye baggie' drinks for the price of two.
Meanwhile, back in Blighty, where we've long since given up caring who owns any of our 'national assets' there are strong rumours that the Middle Eastern airline Ethiad, based in Abu Dhabi, is sniffing around Bmi. It's all to play for in the world's skies.
In today's bulletin:
Lehman Brothers and Merrill Lynch suffer the sword they lived by
Newcastle United: Ashley Toons out
The CBI: recession and job cuts on the way
Alitalia defies financial gravity
Why brands are at the heart of service innovation