On August 13th, 2012 ENAC, the Italian civil aviation authority, ordered Italian carrier Windjet to suspend all operations and to cease issuing tickets. The low cost carrier shut down its website and grounded all of its aircraft at the start of the busiest holiday week of the year. 300,000 air travellers found they were stranded and 500 staff lost their jobs.
Windjet was established in 2003 by Antonino Pulvirenti, owner of the Catania football team. It grew to be the fourth largest airline in Italy after Alitalia, Air One (now part of Alitalia) and Meridiana fly.
In January 2012, Alitalia declared an interest in acquiring Windjet. Permission was granted by the Italian authorities in late July with the condition that Alitalia give up slots on some key domestic routes. Alitalia’s response was to cancel the merger plans. Windjet had accumulated debts of €140 million.
That would seem to be the end of the story -except that this is Italy!
On the 5 December, Windjet will start flying again. Four Airbus will fly across Italy using the Windjet name “W” logo but with a new red, white and blue livery. The new company officially will be called Aero linee siciliane. Bizarrely, its main backer? None other than by Antonino Pulvirenti, owner of the Catania football team with funding from the Sicilian regional government.
Not surprisingly there has been an outcry from staff, passengers and creditors. ENAC said that it had not received any request ” for the resumption of operations or for the issuance of a new license and a new air operator’s certificate“. There has been much criticism that the Sicilian government which is also cash strapped is helping to fund an airline.
As with many things in Italy, watch this space!
My question is that we pay a whole stack of taxes on top of airline tickets. These taxes pay for airport facilities, greenhouse taxes and fill government revenue holes. Why is there not some sort of international levy fund that we would pay into. In the event of an airline failure, the fund could be drawn on to allow the airline to keep flying for 72 hours thus allowing passengers en route to complete their trips and for future passengers to be rebooked on other carriers. In addition, why is there no fund that provides comprehensive insurance for passengers who have paid for tickets -sometimes months in advance. Yes often passengers can get refunds through their credit card companies or travel insurance but often this is a long and convoluted process.