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Officials in northern Italy unite against Air France bid in defense of Malpensa

Officials in northern Italy unite against Air France bid in defense of Malpensa

Officials in northern Italy are uniting in opposition to Air France-KLM's bid for ailing Alitalia Spa, which would make Rome the nation's only hub at the expense of Milan.
The Air France plan _ which the Alitalia board tipped Friday as its preferred bidder over Italian airline Air One SpA _ would do away with Alitalia's two-hub system, one at Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport and the other at Milan's Malpensa.
Having a hub in Milan has been fiercely defended by northern politicians, but has been criticized as too expensive and impractical. Alitalia's board, under chairman Maurizio Prato, has already signaled its intention to cut traffic to Malpensa.
The Northern League _ a party with a strong regional identity _ has threatened strikes and blockades in opposition to the Air France bid.
David Boni, a northern League official, said the Air France-KLM plan would "put out of the game the only hub that could compete on an international level," while costing the north jobs, the news agency ANSA reported Sunday.
Lombardy regional president Roberto Formigoni called the board's decision "unacceptable," but noted that the ultimate choice of a preferred bidder for the government's 49.9 percent stake will be made by Prime Minister Romano Prodi's government next month.
He urged Rome not to "hide behind the board's decision," saying it "risks playing with fire ... if it abandons the most important territory in the country."
Under the Air France's plan, Rome's Leonardo da Vinci airport would be integrated into the Air France-KLM hub network as the primary airport for travelers to and from Italy, and would serve as a gateway to southern and eastern Europe and northern Africa, the Alitalia board statement Friday said.
"The new group, thanks to the presence of a hub in southern Europe, will improve its position with respect to its European competitors," the statement said.
Air France "foresees an important role" for Milan's two airports, with Linate, located in Milan, focused on business travelers while Malpensa would retain its three principal intercontinental connections to North America, South America and Asia, the statement said.
Rome's Leonardo da Vinci had 30.1 million passengers in 2006, while Malpensa had 21.8 million, according to the Airports Council International. Air France-KLM's other hubs, Paris' Charles De Gaulle and Amsterdam's Schipol, had 56.8 million and 46 million, respectively.
The government has been trying to off-load the loss-making Alitalia since last December.


Updated : 2021-05-17 21:33 GMT+08:00