Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Alitalia relaunch delayed to after Christmas

December 2 2008 ROME, Dec 2 (Reuters) - Italian airline Alitalia's relaunch by a group of Italian businessmen will be delayed until after Christmas to prevent travel disruptions during the peak holiday season, Italy's industry minister said on Tuesday.

He did not specify a date when Alitalia will officially operate under the CAI investor consortium's ownership, but the administrator overseeing the airline's bankruptcy said he would ensure Alitalia keeps flying until Jan. 12.
"The start of the new Alitalia will be after the Christmas vacations to avoid the most congested holiday period," Industry Minister Claudio Scajola told reporters in Brussels.

"I don't see any major problems if it becomes operational after 10 to 15 days. With all the problems we've had, this is definitely the least of them."

The deal with CAI was initially set to be wrapped up by Nov. 30, but the administrator, Augusto Fantozzi, delayed it until Dec. 12 citing technical reasons.

A source close to the matter had said CAI was unable to deliver the funds for its 427 million-euro ($539.9 million) purchase of Alitalia's best assets before then.

A new government decree allows the transfer of Alitalia's assets to CAI to be delayed beyond Dec. 12, but under the condition that all costs, risks and losses related to Alitalia are borne by CAI during the transition period.

The two sides have agreed CAI will pay 24 million euros to cover Alitalia's obligations between Dec. 1 and Dec. 12 and then pay 14 million euros weekly until it takes over. ($1=.7908 euros) (Reporting by Francesca Landini in Brussels and Deepa Babington in Rome; Editing by Greg Mahlich)

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