Meridiana rebrands as Air Italy

Italian carrier Meridiana has rebranded as Air Italy and will expand its fleet from 11 to 50 aircraft by 2022 as it aims to expand at the expense of Alitalia.

Investors in Air Italy unveiled new business, fleet and network plans this week, with eight new aircraft to join the carrier this year – five Airbus A330s from Qatar Airways and three of 20 Boeing 737 MAXs on order.

Meridiana/Air Italy is based at Olbia in Sardinia but operates predominantly from Milan Malpensa.

Alitalia went into administration in May last year after then shareholder Etihad withdrew financial support.

The former flag carrier remains in administration pending the outcome of the Italian general election on March 4.

Qatar Airways acquired a 49% stake in Meridiana holding company Alisarda last September, with the latter retaining a 51% stake and rebranding as AQA Holding.

In December, Meridiana announced the launch this May of Milan Malpensa services to New York and Miami using a Qatar Airways A330.

The investors this week announced plans for the carrier to become “a sustainable airline alternative for the people of Italy”.

They announced the launch of flights between Milan and Bangkok, operating four times a week from September, and promised to launch three additional long-haul routes by the end of the year, with the first of a series of long-haul destinations from Rome Fiumicino to come in 2019.

Air Italy will also launch domestic services between Milan and Rome, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Lemezia Terme in southern Italy.

Alisarda chairman Marco Rigotti said: “Our ambition is, as it has been through our history, to develop the leisure and charter Italian market place.”

Meridiana chairman Francesco Violante added: “Air Italy has an ambition to reach a goal of 10 million passengers per year by 2022. We expect more than eight million to use Milan Malpensa airport.”

Qatar Airways group chief executive Akbar Al Baker said: “Air Italy will achieve global scale in both fleet and network expansion.”

The airline was founded as Alisarda in 1963 to help develop tourism to Sardinia. Its name was changed to Meridiana in 1991.

Meridiana acquired a stake in Italian charter carrier Eurofly in 2006, the carriers merged in 2010, and Meridiana acquired charter carrier Air Italy in 2011.

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