The Italian Almanac


Italian News - September 27

Alitalia's patriotic credentials were under scrutiny this week when it emerged that the national flag-carrier was 'guilty' of offering French cheese at one of its top VIP airport lounges. Italian farmers' union Coldiretti reported on Monday that a variety of soft French cheeses were on the menu in the Alitalia lounge at New York's JFK airport.

Agriculture Minister Gianni Alemanno immediately expressed his disapproval, saying the news "astonished" him. He said Alitalia, which is still more than 60% state-owned, was "a key company when it comes to promoting Italian products around the world. The loss of such unique opportunities for publicizing Italian goods in favor of promoting competitor countries is very serious." The issue achieved the rare feat of uniting Italy's belligerent rival coalitions, with members of the opposition equally indignant.

Alitalia has so far made no comment on the row but one explanation could be that the company is part of the Sky Team Air Alliance which also includes Air France. Nonetheless, Coldiretti even accused the airline of aiding the boom in counterfeit Italian products to the detriment of the country's authentic food industry. It said that by offering French cheese, Alitalia was wasting a chance to demonstrate the superiority of genuine products to consumers who might be used to foreign clones.