Meridiana, driven by its 49% owner Qatar Airways, has announced it’s rebranding to Air Italy. Qatar wants the former leisure airline to become Italy’s flag carrier, as nobody is interested in buying all of AlItalia – not one airline has said its interested in the entire company.
Qatar was always intending to revamp the airline since buying a huge 49% stake last September.
Qatar’s new plan will take Meridiana/Air Italy’s fleet from 11 (eight Boeing 737NGs and three 767-300s) to around 50 aircraft by 2022. It will receive 20 Boeing 737-8s from an order previously placed by Qatar Airways, as well as five Airbus A330-200s from Qatar Airways’ fleet. They’re being replaced at Qatar by 787-8’s.
Air Italy will begin a major upgrade of domestic operations – Italy is a major domestic airline market because of its geography and lack of rail routes especially in the south, Sicily and Sardinia.
The company will also begin long-haul operations to the Far East later in the year.
All this sounds oddly familiar. Etihad and it’s equity partners tried to do similar things but failed miserably. This time Qatar is starting from the bottom and working up rather than trying to convert a company in a nose dive to one that’s profitable. And it’s prepared to fight the low cost corner against RyanAir and Vueling.