By Vincenzo Claudio Piscopo
Struggling Luke Air Hires A Chief Restructuring Officer As It Looks to Climb Out of Debt
Luke Air is the commercial brand of Blue Panorama Airlines S.p.A., an Italian charter airline, founded in Rome in 1998. Under the Blu-express brand, it also operates medium- and short-haul low-cost flights. Since December 2017, it has been controlled by entrepreneur Luca Patanè’s UVET Group, which in 2020 acquired the economic part of Neos Air.
Two years ago, Blue Panorama Airlines rebranded itself as Luke Air, and last June, at Milan’s Malpensa Airport, the carrier received its first repainted aircraft, an Airbus A330-200 for long-haul routes.
In October 2020, the UVET Group for the Blue Panorama airline received a state contribution as a non-refundable compensation fund of 45 million euros ($49 million), as did other Italian carriers, such as Air Dolomiti and Neos. Despite this, Luke Air suspended commercial operations as of October 27, 2021, due to financial reasons caused by the crisis in the sector resulting from the Covid-19 pandemic.
The carrier has proceeded to suspend its Air Operator Certificate (AOC) due to its financial situation, but the airline has in recent months given indications that a better future could be on the horizon. The president of Blue Panorama Airlines S.p.A., Luca Patanè, has entrusted aeronautical engineer Valentina Quagliata with the role of Chief Restructuring Officer.
Quagliata has more than 20 years of experience in the aviation industry, and in the middle of the last decade was involved in the acquisition of 49% of Alitalia by Etihad Airways, was appointment in 2017 as vice president network Alitalia and in early 2019 she joined Air Italy with the role of senior vice president network, strategy & planning.
The goal now is to restore and relaunch the company, as the future of the 350 or so remaining workers who have not received salaries or redundancy payments for many months now is at risk. The number has halved compared to the previous 700 employees, as half have left the company following voluntary resignations.
On Wednesday, the unions sent a letter to the extraordinary commissioners, Claudio Ferrario and Salvatore Sanzo, asking for an urgent meeting to clarify the situation of payments and the use of the redundancy fund instruments. The unions have already solicited the airline in the past and the commissioners to know their initiatives but unfortunately, there has been no response yet.
The redundancy fund and the very serious delays in the integration of the Air Transport Solidarity Fund are causing unsustainable situations among all workers. The Solidarity Fund for the air transport sector and the airport system was established by decree by the Italian government in 2016 and it serves to support income and employment and professional retraining and reconversion of personnel in the air transport sector.