Air Italy expands as UAE-backed Alitalia goes bankrupt

Italian airline carrier Meridiana changed its name to Air Italy with the backing of its new shareholder, Qatar Airways.

Air Italy - please do not use
Qatar Airways has expanded airline investment with Italy's Meridiana [Meridiana]

Italian airline Meridiana changed its name to Air Italy with the backing of Qatar Airways, its new shareholder, aiming to become Italy’s flagship carrier as UAE-backed Alitalia undergoes bankruptcy proceedings.

Expansion plan

Re-branded as Air Italy, Meridian unveiled a new restructuring plan to make of Air Italy “a sustainable airline alternative for the people of Italy“, as Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar al-Baker said on Monday at a press conference in Milan.

“Air Italy will achieve global scale in both fleet and network expansion … We will show that we are the star,” added al-Baker.

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 2018. 

Qatar Airways will lease five of its Airbus A330-200 aircraft to Air Italy “at market prices”, al-Baker said.

Beginning from May 2018, Air Italy will add new domestic routes from Milan, while new long-haul destinations to New York, Miami, and Bangkok will be opened by the end of the year.

Meridiana’s chairman said: “Air Italy has an ambition to reach a goal of transporting 10 million passengers per year by 2022 travelling to, from and via Italy. We expect more than 8 million of these to use Milan Malpensa airport.”

Alitalia bankruptcy

Alitalia, Italy’s flagship carrier, started bankruptcy proceedings last year for the second time in a decade, after saying it will no longer invest in the faltering airline.

Earlier this month, Italian Minister Carlo Calenda said that the situation regarding Alitalia will not be resolved before Italy’s general election on March 4.

“The commissioners (of Alitalia) have confirmed to me that they do not think they can conclude things before March 4 as those interested in Alitalia want to wait for the elections,” Calenda said.

Alitalia has been in extraordinary administration since a restructuring plan was rejected last year and the government is in the process of finding a buyer.

In 2014, Abu Dhabi-based Etihad airlines acquired a 49 percent stake in Alitalia.

Source: Al Jazeera, News Agencies