Ryanair, Europe's leading discount airline and the largest carrier in Italy by passenger volume, has confirmed it wants to buy bankrupt Alitalia—and plans to keep it operating as a separate airline under the Alitalia name.
That may be a major factor for the trustees, who have set October as the deadline for binding bids for ownership. Some of the expected bids envision separating Alitalia's long- and short-haul operations, or even closing the company and selling assets. Italy's tourism and culture minister, as well as others, have warned that a breakup of Alitalia “would be a tremendous mistake.”
Ryanair's chairman, Michael O'Leary told Bloomberg News that “Alitalia struggles to make money but it’s still a very good brand in Italy....The jets are all leased, so we would want those leases, but we would want the bankruptcy administrator to restructure them.”
O'Leary believes the airline could keep its current pilot and engineering staff while saving money by eliminating a 2000-strong layer of managers. O'Leary pointed out that Ryanair's equivalent staff is 120, though the airline has 5 times as many passengers.
The company would end up managing a mixed fleet, however. Alitalia uses about 70 A320 series planes, while Ryanair has over 400 737s. There could be some future economies as leases expire on the A320s if Ryanair chose to replace them with 737s. Alitalia's long-haul routes are served by A330s and 777s. They would represent achievement of a long-time O'Leary dream of a trans-Atlantic connection.
According to Bloomberg, Ryanair is also interested in bidding on Air Berlin, but believes it will be sold to Lufthansa in a brokered deal.