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Lufthansa is closing in on Italy’s ITA – your SkyTeam status match could become Star Alliance

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Reports in Italy suggest that Lufthansa’s discussions to take a stake in Italy’s ITA Airways are more advanced than we thought.

It is said that an announcement could come this week, with Lufthansa Group taking a 40% stake.

If you matched your British Airways status to ITA’s Volare programme recently, you may end up with Star Alliance status too!

Let’s take a step back.

ITA Airways is the new Italian Government-sponsored replacement for Alitalia. The airline was immediately slotted into the SkyTeam airline alliance, taking Alitalia’s place.

The airline launched in October, and immediately set up a status match to its new Volare frequent flyer programme.

We encouraged HfP readers with British Airways Gold status to apply for this, since you would end up with SkyTeam ElitePlus status. This gives you lounge access and other top tier privileges across all of the SkyTeam airlines, including Air France, KLM and Delta.

If you applied for the match (it is now too late) and were accepted, you should have received an email last week with your membership details. You can also get a virtual card on your phone via the new ITA app, although the iPhone version appears to be messed up and is showing a January 2022 status expiry date!

(There is a thread in our forum discussing the Volare status match which you can find here.)

Will ITA Airways now join Star Alliance?

If the Lufthansa investment happens, it is virtually certain that the airline will join Star Alliance and leave SkyTeam.

All of the existing Lufthansa Group airlines which are in an alliance (Lufthansa, SWISS, Austrian, Brussels) are in Star Alliance.

Will your ITA SkyTeam status become Star Alliance status?

It could do. The question is how long it takes for ITA to join the alliance, since your status match will only run for one year. I doubt many HfP readers will renew their top-tier Volare status next year.

ITA has publicly stated that it only signed a one year contract with SkyTeam.

If you got lucky, however, you may end up with Star Alliance status at some point.

If you got VERY lucky, another SkyTeam airline may take you on and match your Volare status, if SkyTeam is worried about ‘leakage’ from the alliance.

Don’t hold your breath

There are clearly a lot of ‘if’s’ in this scenario.

However, if Lufthansa does agree to buy a 40% stake in the airline in the next week or so, there is a chance that you will end up with Star Alliance status.

The real question is what Lufthansa wants with a 40% stake in an airline that the Italian Government will continue to control. Geographically, Italy is in the wrong place to be an effective hub for transatlantic traffic – unlike London, Paris or Frankfurt – and it is not a high yield market in itself.

That said, Lufthansa already owns Air Dolomiti, the Italian regional airline based in Verona. It knows the market it is getting into. If Lufthansa’s influence can allow ITA to keep a grasp on commercial realities – Alitalia was a financial basket case for decades – there may be untapped potential if it can fight off Ryanair, Vueling and easyJet. Let’s see.

Comments (30)

This article is closed to new comments. Feel free to ask your question in the HfP forums.

  • Christ says:

    bummer – i matched from star alliance

  • John says:

    Your matched status might have expired by the time this is all said and done.

    Sure, this is not as problematic as a takeover of Air Europa by IAG. BUT: You can’t just look at overall, country-level market shares. (If you did, you would conclude a combined LHG-ITA isn’t all that big; formidable competitors such as Ryanair remain.)

    Instead, a takeover would create some new monopoly routes that should concern regulators: FCO-FRA, FCO-ZRH, and MIL-FRA. (As for the last route, it is currently served by a third player–Ryanair. But that will end in March as Ryanair closes its base in Frankfurt.)

    Ultimately, I still think a takeover will get (conditional) approval. But it’s not a trivial matter. Regulators will take some time. Completion of the takeover will take some time. We could be well into 2023 by the time this is done.

    • Sean says:

      Lufthansa seems to get what it wants from competition authorities. After all they were allowed to buy the neighbouring airlines in Belgium, Switzerland and Austria.

    • Alex Sm says:

      Was Ryanair ever based in FRA proper? I thought it was Frankfurt-Hahn

  • Paul says:

    Has anyone managed to do anything with their ITA status? I took an Air France flight over the weekend and their website doesn’t even mention ITA on it’s list of partners. Tried to get them to add the number at the airport but couldn’t as their system didn’t recognise it either. Not sure how much use having Sky Team elite plus is if the other airlines don’t know what ITA is.

    • Alan says:

      Damn that’s not so good! Hopefully just a time thing with them being new and should be added soon?

  • Concerto says:

    Remember Lufthansa Italia?

  • Czechoslovakia says:

    I just don’t get it. Lufthansa Italia was a bit of a flop as an airline. If Lufty themselves couldn’t get it work then, why do think it could work now with the remnants of state run Alitalia? They don’t exactly have an exemplary record…

    • Bagoly says:

      Does ITA have significantly lower (unit) costs than Alitalia?
      Or is it just as weak on an ongoing basis, but with accumulated debts written off?

      • Rob says:

        ITA is currently small. You can assume it is currently grossly overstaffed already with ‘friends of friends’ etc, like Alitalia, but in theory Lufty could put the brakes on this.

        • Luca says:

          They have actually issued their first financial statement and although running at a loss, it is in line with their Business Plan and there are actually still recruiting to fill vacancies and expand in line with their business plan. Currently they do not even cover Italian City to City commuting, which is absurd for a National airline. They also stated in this recent Financial Update that they will actually revive the Alitalia brand they have acquired and initially stated they would not use.

          • Alex Sm says:

            City to city commuting has been taken over by trains. As for Alitalia brand, probably it still has value and recognition, so it will be easier to retain than to repaint all the planes

          • Lady London says:

            I’ve never signed up with ITA. And yet they’ve emailed me quite a few times asking me to sign up with them.

            One of the emails had my very, very old Alitalia membership number on it. Even though we were told nothing would be transferred from Alitalia to ITA.

            I still haven’t forgiven Italia for refusing to match my top tier status (with proof of flights flown) to any more than their useless mid-status when others with same status were being matched to the same top level. They took far too long to complete the substandard match offer and refused to give me the correct match others had, on appeal. I had been quite prepared to do 2 Transatlantics and short haul to Italy on Alitalia. But why would I give up my existing lounge access and other privileges if they refused the match to same level they gave others?

            It will still be the same people running ITA so I’ll pass.

  • James says:

    I did the status match. Flew with KLM on Saturday and was told that ITA don’t have an agreement in place for me to get access to the Crown Lounge. Status with no benefits currently. Kinda useless unless you live in Italy and fly with ITA.

  • Alan says:

    I’m hoping it remains SkyTeam for the rest of the year – I’ve already got Star Alliance Gold until Feb 2024 courtesy of Singapore Airlines’ promos!

  • PMG says:

    There was an interesting German article I was reading on this yesterday trying to make sense of why Lufthansa would do this.
    Italy remains Lufthansa’s second biggest market (after the US) and they could make Fiumicino a hub for flights to Africa and partly to the US. Also it is likely trying to defend its position against AF/KLM…

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