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Friday, 8 February 2013

The Italian Job: A Complete Whitewash

Earlier this week, an ATR-72 turboprop flying a domestic sector within Italy suffered an unfortunate landing mishap & ended up in a grass ditch. Six people were injured. The pilots are blaming strong crosswinds.

But what's more intriguing than the blame game & paperwork is what happened next. Whilst the plane was left in situ overnight after the crash, the next morning it had experienced a remarkable transformation. Gone were all Alitalia Airlines markings. The only original things recognisable left were the aircraft's registration, & a small Romanian flag. Check out these before-&-after shots:

Why leave a Romanian flag? Because the seemingly Alitalia aircraft, carrying Italians around their beloved country on their proud national carrier, was actually owned & operated by Romanian airline Carpatair. Leaving the flag there was a directly racist statement saying "don't blame us, the Romanians did it." You will also notice that there are no windows left visible after the paint job. It was done so quickly, they didn't even have time to mask them over & paint around them.

According to Uk's Daily Mail Online, an Alitalia executive was quoted as saying:

"Blocking out a carrier's livery is a normal way of protecting a company's reputation, and even more in this case, because it is not an Alitalia plane....This is something that is done by airline companies in many countries and we are surprised that such a fuss is being made. It is a matter of brand protection."

"Brand protection". There's a couple of compassionate words. And whilst that may be one name for it, "tampering with the evidence of a crash site" is another.

"Not an Alitalia plane"? It was the day before when Alitalia was charging passengers to fly on it.

Such confirmation meanwhile of previous instances are rare. One example was an Air Canada landing mishap in 1997, when it was reported:

"Air Canada came in for its own share of criticism the day after the crash when it painted over its logo on the Bombardier-built Canadair Regional jet. A spokeswoman for the airline explained that removing the logo was standard practice after a crash: "The aircraft no longer belongs to Air Canada; it is now in the possession of the insurance underwriter." "

"Normal way"? "Standard Practice"? Do they teach this stuff in airline CEO school? What they attempt to preserve the next day, ie, their brand, does nothing to comfort the travelling public when it's all over the news the night before. In Alitalias' case, distancing themselves from the operator whilst children are in hospital from the crash just seems cold & heartless. But apparently it's not illegal.

Standing by your operators & tending to the tramatised would serve the brand better in my opinion.

Anyone bring the white paint?
And it's also not true that it's normal, standard or common. I've seen numerous photos of wrecked fuselages over the past decades. I've never seen airlines running to hide them.
US Airways flight 1549, which ditched in the Hudson River, proudly on
display in a museum in Charlotte NC, USA.

 I should also mention that the practice of third-party subcontract operators flying airplanes in major airline liveries is standard commercial practice for many airlines around the world. This, in itself, is not necessarily a commercial evil, provided full disclosure is provided to passengers. In Australia, Virgin Australia's ATR-72's are leased & operated by regional airline Skywest (although, in a new development, Virgin Australia has now acquired Skywest anyway). 


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