Investor CAI fixes date to relaunch Alitalia

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Italian investor group Compagnia Aerea Italiana (CAI) will relaunch Alitalia formally on 13 January 2009, by which time a foreign partner will have been chosen.

The CAI consortium, which officially took over Alitalia today, has outlined more details of the transition phase.

Alitalia has reached an agreement to take over fellow Italian carrier Air One. The combined airlines' personnel will reduce from around 19,000 to 12,700, but the integration will increase Alitalia's domestic market share to 55-56% compared with around 30% before the takeover.

The combined Alitalia-Air One fleet will comprise 148 aircraft serving 70 destinations, of which 23 will be domestic.

CAI is careful not to emphasise any pre-eminence of either Rome or Milan as primary hubs - a highly political issue in Italy - and includes Rome Fiumicino, Milan Linate and Milan Malpensa in its network details.

Rome, however, has the lion's share of routes. Other bases include Turin, Venice, Naples, Catania and Bologna.

CAI chairman Roberto Colaninno also indicates that it is continuing to talk to three foreign investors interested in the new carrier: Air France-KLM, Lufthansa and British Airways.

"We will propose to our members our chosen partner by the end of the year," says Colaninno.

Sources close to CAI state, however, that it is "generally understood" that BA "does not want to invest", while Lufthansa is investing in Austrian Airlines and has recently set up Milan-based division Lufthansa Italia.

The source indicates that the group is looking to streamline its negotiations with Italy's airline unions, one of its bugbears during the protracted path to the formal handover.

"What CAI wants is to deal with base employment contracts beyond individual contracts," says the source.

Contract issues have been highly contentious as the new Alitalia has taken shape, with cabin crew apparently signing up but not all pilots, who must now decide whether or not to agree to CAI's terms.