A new (old) airline launches in Europe – Air Italy

After the bankruptcy of airberlin, Alitalia and Monarch in 2017, the new year 2018 is off to a better start with the (re-)launch of Air Italy, bringing new planes, new livery and new destinations for travelers to, from and through Italy. It also comes with the great ambition to replace bankrupt Alitalia as the Italian flag carrier, supported by a vast expansion of the fleet.

Technically, Air Italy has been around for more than a decade. It was acquired by (equally small) Meridiana in 2011. Late last year, Qatar Airways acquired 49% of the airline and now, they have rebranded under Air Italy.

To date, Meridiana/Air Italy has been a leisure airline with only 12 planes, a mix of old Boeing B737 and B767, serving a number of seasonal destinations from Italian airports around Europe, the Middle East and Africa.
Now, they announced plans to purchase 20 new Boeing B737Max and lease 5 Airbus A330 from parent Qatar Airways. Many of the new planes will serve their hub in Milan Malpensa, with destinations around Italy and Europe. The long-haul planes will start service to Miami, New York and Bangkok! Air Italy has the ambition to fly 10 million passengers from, to and through Italy by 2020 and serve 50 destinations. 80% of that will go through the hub in Milan!

It is ironic that this story sounds vaguely like Etihad’s ill-fated acquisition of Alitalia (and airberlin, Air Serbia,…), with grand plans to expand service – just to end in bankruptcy after millions of investment were wasted. Now, Middle-Eastern neighbor Qatar is attempting to invest in another Italian airline to throw Alitalia from its crumbling throne as Italian flag carrier. 

Al-Baker, the CEO of Qatar Airways, is known for his grand boasts and rhetoric and it will be interesting to see if they do any better than Etihad. This is not just a re-branding but a massive change for Meridiana. They are increasing their fleet 3-fold with new planes and staff, changing their operational model from leisure airline to network airline, targeting new & different market segments. 

As far as corporate change goes, this is massive, almost a new start. And from my career in business, this is incredibly difficult to achieve. While Meridiana doesn’t have the baggage that Alitalia had, it’ll still be a very challenging task to accomplish. 

It will be interesting to see how those leased planes from Qatar Airways will look like in Air Italy service and how tickets of the newcomer will be priced. Flights From Milan to Miami starting in JUne 2018 are priced from EUR366 for Economy and under EUR1,600 for business class – affordable, but not the lowest we have seen!
And the website photos for the current business class with old-fashioned recliners is not something I’d pay for on a long-haul flight!

You can look for the timetable and book flights here! I will follow this story and with Al-Baker at the helm, it sure won’t be boring… 
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