Thursday, 27 April 2017

Asiana Airlines Takes First A350 XWB, Alitalia Staff Reject Restructuring Plan

Asiana Airlines of South Korea has taken delivery of its first A350-900, becoming the 12th airline to operate the twin-engine airliner.

Asiana’s A350-900 is configured with a three-class layout and a total of 311 seats, comprising 28 in Business Smartium, convertible to fully flat beds, 36 in Economy Smartium and 247 in the main cabin.

Altogether Asiana has ordered 30 A350s and will initially operate the aircraft on flights within Asia. From the third quarter of 2017, the carrier will deploy the aircraft on premier long-haul routes to Europe and the US, beginning with services from Seoul to London and San Francisco.

The A350 XWB features an aerodynamic design, carbon fiber fuselage and wings, plus new fuel-efficient Rolls-Royce engines, leading a 25% reduction in fuel burn and emissions, significantly lowering maintenance costs.

The spaciousness, quietness, beautiful interior and mood lighting in the cabin contribute to comfort and well-being. To date, Airbus has recorded a total of 821 firm orders for the A350 XWB from 44 customers.

The workers of Alitalia have rejected a management restructuring plan signed 10 days ago by management and labor unions to save the airline from collapse by cutting wages and laying off employees, betting that the government will intervene to draft an alternate rescue plan.

The vote against the agreement puts at risk the financial aid required to keep Alitalia afloat, which means that the airline faces a potential demise.

Late Monday, Paolo Gentiloni, the Italian prime minister, called ministers for talks on the future of the Italy’s flag carrier, established 70 years ago.

Owned 49 per cent by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways, Alitalia has failed to make a profit, due to the growing competition from low-cost carriers, and the impact of terror attacks on the European air travel market.

Based on this James Hogan, President and Chief Executive of the Etihad Aviation Group, and Vice Chairman of Alitalia, said:

“We deeply regret the Alitalia staff vote outcome, which means that all parties will lose: Alitalia’s employees, its customers and its shareholders, and ultimately also Italy, for which Alitalia is an ambassador all over the world. Alitalia’s shareholders, including Etihad Airways, have provided vast amounts of financial and commercial support during the past three years. Jointly with the Italian shareholders, Etihad had reaffirmed its strong commitment and principal willingness to support the airline with a package worth nearly €2 billion in aggregate to help fund Alitalia’s new five-year business plan. A key condition to this commitment was that an agreed and concerted effort would be made by all interested parties, including the unions. The preliminary agreement with unions that was made possible and supported by the union leaders, Alitalia management, the Italian Prime Minister and three government ministers would have helped secure Alitalia’s future. The rejection of this agreement in the staff ballot is deeply disappointing. As a minority shareholder in Alitalia we support the Board’s decision today to convene a shareholder’s meeting on April 27, to start preparing the procedures provided by the law.”

Earlier this year, Alitalia tried to regain its course by cutting €1bn in costs, in order to return to profit by the end of 2019, with up to 2,000 layoffs and salary cuts of up to 30 per cent. In a deal announced last April 14, the labor unions accepted the plan, subsequently rejected by the employees on Monday’s vote.