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One Year On, Remembering Alitalia’s New Uniforms

It’s a bittersweet symphony this airline industry.

Last year, around this time, in Rome, we celebrated the debut of Alitalia’s new uniforms.

Alas, Etihad’s efforts to inspire the airline staff of one of Europe’s most troubled flagship carriers has not paid off. Now, the lot and stock are up for sale, including, I imagine, those enviable handbags.

Should we have seen this coming? In a word, yes. I was there. It was lovely. It was easy to get wrapped up in the show and forget the realities of the bigger runway.

But Etihad’s recovery plan for Alitalia hinged on a leap of faith that the unions representing the company’s employees would do their part to keep the airline flying.

Branding efforts can yield positive returns in an organisation that shares a sense of purpose. But new threads can’t dress old wounds. Alitalia’s bankruptcy reminds us of that.

What can we learn from Alitalia’s failure to re-launch?

  1. Appearance isn’t everything.
  2. Sometimes you can’t bring sexy back.
  3. The Etihad Group itself is changing, offloading financial risk.
  4. Europe’s airline industry has changed. Smaller flagship airlines may want to consider Ryanair’s feeder offerings.
  5. We survived the loss of Sabena, and we’ll survive this.
  6. Keep your eye on airBerlin.


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