As the world is left reeling from the sudden collapse of Air Italy, Simple Flying wants to get down to the nitty-gritty of the situation – what’s going to happen to its planes? While some may simply be returned to leasing firms, others belonged to Qatar. Does this mean an unexpected fleet expansion for the Middle East airline, or could a certain up and coming African airline be in for an aircraft windfall? Let’s find out.
What aircraft did Air Italy fly?
According to data from Planespotters, Air Italy operated a modest fleet of just 12 aircraft. These included four Airbus A330-200s and eight Boeing 737s. The 737s were mixed between the 737-700, of which it had just one, the 737-800, of which it had four and three Boeing 737 MAX 8s.
Let’s take a look at its widebody aircraft first.
The Airbus A330s
Air Italy’s four Airbus A330-200s were relatively new to the airline, having been delivered between May 2018 and October 2018. However, they were not new aircraft. The youngest had clocked 15.2 years in service, while the oldest was just over 17 years of age. Older aircraft for sure, but perhaps not at the end of their useful life yet.
Since the announcement of Air Italy’s bankruptcy, the four aircraft have been listed as ‘stored’. This is because Air Italy is no longer flying, but really it just means they are parked up and no longer in service.
All four A330s were on lease from Air Italy’s investor Qatar Airways. Qatar owned 49% of the airline, the maximum allowed for a foreign investor. In terms of ownership, these aircraft still belong to Qatar Airways, and will, therefore, be returned to the parent company.
However, Qatar likes to boast a young fleet, and has a current average fleet age of just 5.9 years. The A330-200s it retains in its fleet are, on average, just 9.5 years old, so it’s unlikely that Qatar will want to take these aircraft back It’s more likely that the Middle East airline will look to lease these out to another partner, rather than operate them itself.
The Boeing 737s
Air Italy had three brand new Boeing 737 MAX in its fleet, which it didn’t get to operate for very long. However, although Air Italy was the first airline to operate these three planes, they weren’t actually ordered by the carrier. All the MAX in Air Italy’s fleet were also Qatar Airways planes, sent to Air Italy by its investor to kick start operations.
In total, it had sub-leased 20 737 MAX from Qatar, with a further 17 due between now and 2022. Qatar does not operate the 737 MAX itself, so it will be interesting to see what the airline does with these three returning MAX aircraft, as well as the other 17 that Boeing is preparing to deliver.
Of the NGs, all were leased. AirFleets notes lessors including GECAS, BBAM, FTAI and Wilmington as owners of these aircraft, so given time, all will end up back with the leasing body. Prior to that, these aircraft are likely to go to a maintenance service to be stripped of Air Italy livery and prepared for their next customer.
Where could the Qatar aircraft go?
It would be a strange and unusual move to see Qatar operating its returned MAX and A330s itself. The airline has no need for these planes and they don’t fit well into its current fleet strategy. While Qatar may well look to the open market to get these planes leased out, there is a more interesting proposition on the horizon.
Earlier this month, Qatar invested in RwandAir, the flag carrier of Rwanda. Qatar also owns 60% of the airline’s under construction hub airport, Bugesera International. Qatar sent these planes to Air Italy to give its growth a kick start… could it do the same for RwandAir?
RwandAir already operates the A330, with one -300 and one -200 in its fleet. It also has a total of six 737 NGs in operation, and two MAX 8s on order. These aircraft would fit beautifully into RwandAir fleet, and could give the airline a healthy bump in capacity, likely at preferential rates too.
What do you think? Will RwandAir take Qatar’s ‘spare’ Air Italy aircraft? Or do you foresee other plans for these planes? Let us know in the comments!