(ROME) — Commercial airline workers in Italy hoped to save flight industry jobs this week, protesting possible layoffs. Hundreds of employees of Italy’s top carrier Alitalia were among the protesters outside Rome’s main international airport, calling for the troubled company to be nationalized and the government to come to the rescue.

For decades, Alitalia operated as a state-owned company, with millions of dollars poured into it. But under European Union law, states can no longer save private companies with direct financial aid.

The COVID-19 pandemic heavily impacted the entire travel industry as many international borders closed and travelers stayed home under strict lockdowns. The increased limitations and decreased demand for travel only made matters worse for Alitalia, which had already been losing money.

Italy is currently negotiating with the EU, seeking to restructure the airline and launch a new state-owned airline to be called ITA, according to Euronews.

Workers fear if a new company takes over, thousands of employees could be laid off and airplanes sold to cut costs.

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