Back in 2011, Italian leisure airline Meridiana acquired a small airline named Air Italy. In February of this year after a little help from the Qatar buy in, Meridiana decided to rebrand as Air Italy. They flew their first international flight under the new livery on the June 1st and have now announced increased frequencies. It seems it’s all go at Air Italy.
The story of the Air Italy rebrand
Italian carrier, Meridiana was a brand not known by many which was firmly stuck in the past. Their brand identity was ‘la dolce vita’ when everyone was just looking for affordable, comfortable reliable European and international flights. They may have been doomed to go the way of Monarch Airlines except Qatar Airways stepped in and bought a 49% stake.
Things began moving quickly after this. The announcement of the adoption of a name it already owned, albeit a much more recognizable and memorable one, followed by its immediate use just two weeks later. Its first Boeing 737 MAX arrived soon after with the promise of 19 more to come.
Air Italy long haul flights
Now, we see several new Air Italy routes with increased frequencies popping up in searches. Right now there are four weekly Milan Malpensa-Bangkok services on offer after September 9th.
This will jump to five a week for the Thai winter holiday season starting October 29th.
We’ve also got increases on the Milan-New Delhi route, which was already due to begin on October 29th. But now instead of offering five flights a week, Air Italy will offer six.
But these frequency increases are hardly surprising. The airline has been doing very well. Their four weekly Milan-Miami flights are already running at a load factor of over 80 percent. This has prompted their Qatar backers to speculate on further growth. Qatar Airways Group CEO Akbar Al Baker went on record saying bigger aircraft like 777s and A350s could be in Air Italy’s future.
Haven’t we heard this story before?
If this sounds familiar to you, don’t be afraid. You’re not losing it rather the story is mirroring what happened with Etihad and Alitalia. Just last year, after a €1.7bn investment in the airline in 2014, everything collapsed. Basically, Qatar Airline’s main geographical competitor tried the same trick as we’re seeing here four years ago, but with disastrous consequences.
At the time, there were concerns that a culture clash caused the collapse of Alitalia. A €2bn financing package was thrown to the wind when Alitalia’s own employees rejected a restructuring plan. But let’s just say, the Air Italy Qatar relationship appears has fared much better.
Perhaps it’s a case of lessons learned. Perhaps also both sides of the table are willing to see more clearly that success depends on creating a product in demand. Flying Italy to Thailand is a smart move and not one normally open to the likes of Qatar. But in some ways Alitalia’s collapse has also left a demand vacuum in the market. It’s one Qatar and Air Italy look to be filling very well.