Meridiana that acquired small Milan based Air Italy back in 2011 will change its name to Air Italy and will lease planes from Qatar Airways to start aggressive expansion while Alitalia is trying to find a buyer for itself and get out of bankruptcy.
Meridiana or Air Italy is backed by Qatar Airways that acquired 49% stake of the airline last year. Unlike Alitalia that uses Rome as their hub, Air Italy uses the Milan’s airport in the more prosperous north.
You can access Meridiana’s website here.
Air Italy begins operating from Milan to New York and Miami this June. In September the airline begins flying four times a week to Bangkok. Air Italy will announce three additional long-haul routes before the end of the year.
Here’s an excerpt Reuters about the fleet plans (access their piece here):
Over the next three years, 20 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will be added to Air Italy’s fleet, the first of which arrives in April.
Qatar Airways will lease five of its Airbus A330-200 to Air Italy “at market prices”, said CEO Akbar Al Baker.
And more from Corriere (access their piece here – Google translate):
Qatar Airways’ investments – of which the figure is not disclosed – are evident. “In the next five years Air Italy will have a fleet of 50 aircraft, 20 Boeing 737 Max 8 for short and medium-haul connections, 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliner for intercontinental flights”, explains Al Baker. What to the CorriereHe explains that “nothing is given for free and therefore these aircraft will also be leased at market prices until Air Italy is able to buy airplanes alone”. For now on the long haul we start with 5 Airbus A330 that will be sold immediately to Air Italy.
Let’s hope that this Qatar Airways’ entry to Italian aviation market will fare better than Etihad’s investment to Alitalia where more than $2 billion dollars went down the drain.
They certainly have lofty goals when they talk about fleet plan of 30 Dreamliners in few years time. I guess that for this to happen would require Alitalia to collapse and go into liquidation.
Meridiana Club currently uses Avios as their loyalty program currency. Interesting to see if there will be changes in that front with this expansion in mind.