Alitalia pilots and cabin crew prepare to go on strike

Strike by 2,000 workers at the affiliate of Etihad Airways involves dispute over aircraft leasing.

Alitalia pilots are poised to go in strike. Stefano Rellandini / Reuters
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About 2,000 pilots and flight attendants from Alitalia, an affiliate of Etihad Airways, plan to go on strike today.

The crux of the row centres on the future leasing of aircraft and whether or not they are supplied with crew – against the wishes of the main pilot union. The union also wants to harmonise the pay of pilots working for the main airline and its CityLiner unit.

The secretary general of the pilot union, Anpac, told The National that Alitalia's management had not ruled out that future aircraft leasing would be conducted under so called "wet leases",meaning the planes arrive with their operating crew.

About 240 pilots and 750 flight attendants were made redundant last summer, ahead of Etihad’s 49 per cent stake acquisition in financially ailing Alitalia. They currently receive pay under state aid until next February.

“We say that it is not possible to have other crew operating our flights, while we still have hundreds of people depending on state aid,” said Giovanni Galiotto, the secretary general of Anpac.

“We think that all flights under the AZ code [Alitalia’s code] should be operated by Italian pilots and flight attendants.

“You can have the aircraft on a different procedure that is called ‘dry lease’, which means the planes will be flown by Alitalia’s pilots and flight attendants.”

Etihad acquired a 49 per cent stake in Alitalia last August in a deal worth €387.5 million (Dh1.52 billion). One of the conditions of the deal was to get Alitalia at the “right size” to return the airline to profit by 2017.

An Alitalia spokesman rejected the union claims and said the airline would not wet lease any aircraft.

“We will lease two wide-body aircraft in the short term and these aircraft will be on a dry lease,” he said.

An Etihad spokesman declined to comment.

Separately, a major strike by air traffic control agency (enav) on Friday is expected to cause disruption to all airline activity in Italy, including low cost airlines.