Prior to the pandemic times, Alessandro Moratti, 51, an experienced ground staff member, had been working for the Italian flag carrier Alitalia for 16 years. Unfortunately, Alessandro was among 4000 people who lost their jobs at the carrier as in 2014 it took cost-saving measures while balancing on the verge of going bankrupt. Despite the job loss, Moratti joined one of the Italian PRM divisions where he now assists reduced mobility passengers. The new role includes tasks such as driving ambulift trucks and pulling wheelchairs. 

16 years’ service to a single airline

Alessandro joined the aviation industry immediately after graduating from University in 1998. Since then, he has devoted his entire professional life to aviation.

Initially, Alessandro joined the largest Italian airline as a call center booking operator but, over time, he was promoted to various ground staff positions. Eventually, he became a supervisor responsible for onboard documentation updates, including technical manuals, navigation charts, insurances, Certificate Of Airworthiness (COA) and licenses.

Alessandro says: “Since 1998, when Alitalia opened its new hub at Milano Malpensa, this airport had been my second home. I have always been interested in airplanes, so airlines were the most natural choice [for my career] and I’m lucky that aviation is both my job and my main hobby.”

Not one to enjoy being confined to an office environment, Alessandro states that he has always been happy to “work in aprons and onboard airplanes”.

He adds: “I never was, and I’m still not, willing to be closed in an office space and be stuck in front of a computer screen for six or eight hours. I need to move and see people.”

Despite spending 16 years at the same airline, Alessandro wasn’t surprised by the redundancy. “I was fired together with another 4000 people and the move wasn’t unexpected at all. Alitalia was sailing and still sails in bad waters [and is] always on the brink of bankruptcy.”

However, Alessandro did not wallow in the bad news.

“I have always known that the economy and airline industry are cyclic,” he says. “It was just like closing a nice chapter [in the book of my life].

The challenges of PRM assistance

Now Alessandro works for one of the Malpensa Airport-based units, which provides assistance services for passengers with reduced mobility (PRM). His favorite part of the job is driving an ambulift truck. However, operating such machinery is more challenging than it might initially appear.

“[As] no airline was interested in my previous 16-year ground staff career, I started searching for a job in the airport handling companies at Malpensa Airport. Now I work in the PRM department,” explains Alessandro. “Ambulift operation challenges are twofold. Firstly, you have to be careful to avoid touching or damaging aircraft parts, especially opened doors. Another of the hardships is driving in an apron and taxiways full of planes moving together with lots of other vehicles, sometimes even coupled with rain, dark, fog and ice.”

Alessandro Moratti

Despite these challenges, Alessandro enjoys the job. But he does miss his professional life pre-pandemic.

He says: “Driving is a part of my duties and I love it. What I miss from my previous job is working with different crew members, going onboard aircrafts and solving different kinds of problems. Every day was different from the day before. I also miss [the ability] to visit many foreign places and get paid well.”

No-one could have predicted the impact that the pandemic would have on both our personal and professional lives. While the aviation industry has been severely affected by the crisis, Alessandro is glad to still be employed in a sector that fascinates him.

“I’m still in the aviation industry and I want to stay there. I’m lucky because I have a job and my mother, who lives alone in a neighboring city, wasn’t affected by the virus. On the downside, good earnings and frequent traveling days are gone.”

Meanwhile, his former colleagues who managed to save their position in the airline amid the first wave of job cuts years prior to the ongoing pandemic, now face no less challenging times. “More than a half of my colleagues lost their jobs due to the COVID-19 crisis [...] The lucky survivors must cope with a heavy decrease in monthly wage level, especially for people that are not directly hired by the airport handling society like I was,” he reveals. 

Alessandro believes that self-confidence, resilience, and the ability to adapt to changing circumstances are the key qualities that help people to navigate from the ongoing crisis. 

He continues: “I don’t believe in God, in Karma, or in Lady Luck. My humble advice is to stay focused, don’t give up and keep on trying, because, as a poet said, or maybe it was an advertisement, ‘if you don’t believe in yourself, how can another person do it?’ Airlines come and go, they are born, and they die, but air traffic demand will always [grow]. So, if you really want to stay in this [industry], you will always find a slot at the end.”

What is your experience during the COVID-19 pandemic? Share your Covid story!