Middle Eastern carrier Etihad Airways believes the eradication of political influence on Alitalia has been crucial to sealing the two sides’ investment partnership.

Speaking in London, Etihad chief James Hogan said he had originally been sceptical of the prospects for a tie-up.

“To take on Alitalia, it had to be the right deal,” he says, adding that the airline had to understand the reasons why the Italian carrier – which had already been restructured after near-collapse – had started to “go wrong”.

Hogan says the airline had been “totally politicised”, adding: “No business can work with a rotating chief executive.”

Alitalia was overstaffed, he says, and was simply “fire-fighting” to service heavy debts.

Etihad saw potential for network benefits between Alitalia and Air Berlin, with which the Abu Dhabi-based operator also has a partnership, as well as an opportunity to capitalise on its relationship with Delta Air Lines.

But Hogan says that Etihad could not afford to invest in an operator immersed in a political mire. “There could be no politics,” he says. “There are no politics.”

Banks forgave the airlines debts. “The debt issue was taken away,” says Hogan, adding that the airline was then able to “right-size” the carrier.

Etihad’s involvement in Alitalia centres on an investment in a 49% share in the airline. Hogan is optimistic about the business, stressing that Alitalia’s unions have been “fantastic” in backing a three-year accord.

Source: Cirium Dashboard