The Pavlov's Dog Syndrome?

There is something artificial about the Alitalia's situation. As if someone has staged it, in almost lab conditions, to reveal how good intentions, if misunderstood, can lead to the results no one wanted.

In its seventy-year history, the company only once, in 1998, made profit. Italia's main air carrier brings losses to shareholders, headache to the government and unease to the unions. Another pattern that cannot missed is that all these years the government has been sending signals that it would always come to the rescue.

It was there to help in 1998, when Romano Prodi's government gave the company 1.5 billion euros. Three years later Alitalia received another 1.4 billion euros, now from Silvio Berlusconi. In 2004, 400 million euros and in 2005, 1.6 billion euros.

At some point the European Union interfered, insisting that such support was contrary to the EU's legislation prohibiting state aid. Yet, the Italians did not back down. In 2008, it helped by organizing the sale of the government's stake to a group of investors led by Air France and KLM.

Air France and KLM prepared a rescue plan that was approved by the board and the government but rejected by the unions. Raffaele Bonanni, the leader of the Italian Confederation of Trade Unions, said: "The government is delivering us naked to negotiate with Air France to the detriment of the workers, infrastructure, and the general interests of the country".

When negotiations failed the government, fighting both the EU and the trade unions, found other buyers, a group of Italian investors.

Very soon, however, the air carrier required new injections. In 2014, 49% of the company's shares were sold to UAE's Etihad Airways. Yet, in 2017 the company needed help again. Etihad Airways prepared an anti-crisis plan, suggesting the dismissal of 2,000 employees and 30% reduction in flight crews' salaries.

After negotiations these measures were softened. Now, the plan was to lay off 1,700 staff who would retain 80% of the earnings for two years. Salaries to flight crews fell by a modest 8%.

For the company that loses 10 million euros every day, this was a very good deal.

Everyone seemed happy. "We did the biggest effort we could to bring the sides together," said the Transport Minister Graziano Delrio. "We did the biggest effort we could to bring the sides together," said Anna Maria Furlan, the leader of Italian Confederation of Trade Unions, "This is a responsible way for all of us to believe in Alitalia's future".

The deal had to be approved by the company's employees. To everyone's surprise, they voted against it.

The carrier has been put into administration. The most likely scenario now is liquidation and sale of assets.

Company staff, apparently, was confident that the government - as always - would come to the rescue. They believe that Alitalia is too big to fail. Former Italian Prime Minister Mateo Renzi, who will try to return to power in the upcoming elections, has already stated that he has a plan for rescuing Alitalia (he did not disclose the details).

Trade unions do not share this optimism. And they are right. This time the government is unlikely to help.

According to the polls, 77% of Italians are against using taxpayers' money to save the failing behemoth. In a country where 40% of young people do not have a job, the fate of Alitalia's employees no longer causes sympathy.