Alitalia Repaint is “Not a Cover-up”

Thursday, February 7, 2013
By George Hatcher


We heard about the Feb 2nd Alitalia ATR-72-500 flight from Pisa to Rome with 50 on board that was hit by hard winds (wind shear) on landing (or else made a hard landing). Cause still under investigation, but it seems to be a disagreement dealing with Mother Nature. The plane overran the end of the runway, and the landing gear was crunched in the process. These things happen. I think there were five or six injuries including a broken leg.

However, there’s a strange wrinkle to the incident.

When it left Pisa, it looked like this:

See the livery? Painted green and red.

After the plane veered off the runway on landing in Rome, after passengers got out (they must have, since there’s no one in it now), the same plane was painted white, livery gone, and no marking on it remaining except for the Romanian flag behind the registration number.

Alitalia had leased the plane from Carpatair. Passengers who flew on that plane thought it was an Alitalia plane. They had purchased Alitalia tickets. There are online interviews of passengers complaining because they believed they had been on an Alitalia plane.

It is not uncommon for airlines to lease planes. What is the responsibility of the ticket agent or airline to notify passengers of the codesharing details?

Alitalia denies this is a cover-up. They say it (meaning painting over their colors very fast before anyone walking about can see) is “standard corporate practice and a way of avoiding bad publicity.”

If “avoiding bad publicity” is not a cover up, what is? Shouldn’t the Italian public flying by that plane beached off the runway know it was flying with Alitalia colors even if it was leased from Carpatair? Is painting over the livery a kind of Romania bashing, especially if a Romanian crew landed a wet-leased plane in bad-wind conditions so that there was no catastrophic loss of life? Good on the crew, whoever they were for no loss of life. Wonder what the investigation will say.

Even if they do not own the plane, Alitalia is accountable. Did they lease it sight unseen? They’d be double-ly accountable for leasing something blind, I would think. I’m thinking they knew what they were flying. Did they not fly it under their colors and sell tickets to passengers who believed they were flying Alitalia with an Alitalia crew? Airlines do this all the time. But it does not become a cover up until the paint job–until the Italian media points the finger–Here’s the thing. It’s public record that it’s a leased plane.

The attention the Italian media is giving this is justified. The public should know they are being handled by the PR department. Alitalia’s strategy: 1)dumping Carpatair codeshares and 2)painting the plane looks more like a publicity cover-up strategy than a move toward safety.

If that’s a wet-leased crew, they landed the plane and no one died.

If repainting is standard policy, what other times has Alitalia repainted on the sly, or otherwise hidden their connection to incidents? How many (this-is-not-a-)cover-ups have there been of incidents at less scrutinized airports than Fiumicino? I am sure the public would love to know.

The investigators are French (ATR) and Romanian (Carpatair). It will be interesting to hear what the Italian people think about it.

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