It was recently revealed that Air Italy have decided to expand their fleet with Airbus A330s instead of Boeing 787s as was the original plan. Alex Macheras, who runs Aviation Analyst had an exclusive chance to talk to Rossen Dimitrov, Chief Operating Officer of Air Italy. During their conversation Dimitrov said this decision was due to delays in 787 deliveries.
During their conversation Dimitrov goes into further detail about the decision:
“Because of the delay in Boeing 787 Dreamliner deliveries, we have decided to expand the fleet with Airbus A330s instead. We will add more A330s this year, and next year too”
When Simple Flying last caught up with Air Italy in December 2018, they told us:
“Due to aircraft delivery delays, in order to support the ongoing dynamic growth of Air Italy and to provide maximum synergy with the operational requirements of the airline, we will be introducing further A330s to support our growth plans for long-haul operations and to fit in with our existing new fleet. However, nothing has changed as regards our future fleet development, and Air Italy is looking forward to taking delivery of the B787s when they are available and as per our business requirements.”
It is now clear that since December 2018, Air Italy has decided to focus on using Airbus aircraft for their long haul fleet. Time will tell if they ever receive Boeing 787’s.
According to Boeing’s website, their current backlog for 787s overall is 624 aircraft out of the 1,441 that have been ordered. The 787-9 backlog currently sits at 389. The Dreamliner has been an incredibly popular, award-winning aircraft and routes flying these planes are often advertised as a selling point by airlines.
It is no surprise that the 787 backlog is as high as it is. However, the Dreamliner production process has come under more intense scrutiny with reports of sub-par production. Aviation blogger Sam Chui also recently reported that although Emirates signed a commitment for 40 Boeing 787-10s, the 787 has been removed from Emirates’ list of future aircraft. Might this suggest that the type has been completely cancelled?
The Qatar Connection
The 787-8s that were planned to be in the Air Italy fleet would be coming from Qatar Airways. This, unfortunately, cannot take place until Qatar receives its newly built 787-9s from Boeing.
With regards to the replacement aircraft, Dimitrov went on to provide more detail about where their A330s would be coming from:
“We want to lease the next A330 jets from Qatar as we would like to maintain the consistency in our product. We don’t want to create confusion in our product, and this aircraft is proving to be perfect for us. We’ll stick with the same cabins, and continue to roll-out our service and cabin upgrades, etc”
The bigger picture result is that Air Italy is committing to an all-Airbus long-haul fleet. In light of the 737 MAX groundings, could a switch from Boeing to Airbus happen for their short-haul aircraft too?
Short-haul Airbus planes for Air Italy?
Currently, Air Italy have a fleet of 20 737 MAX aircraft sub-leased from Qatar Airways. None of these planes are currently flying due to the worldwide grounding of this type. This has clearly had an effect on the airline. In the same conversation with Aviation Analyst, Dimitrov said:
“I like the Airbus A220, I spoke to colleagues from Swiss Air and they’re very happy with that jet. We would have to make sure it’s something that works for us before committing, but crew commonality is the bottom line, and we fly Airbus long-haul jets too”.
This certainly wouldn’t be the first time we’ve heard talk about an airline considering narrowbody short-haul Airbus planes in light of the 737 MAX crisis. While Dimitrov is reluctant to provide any certainty, he is certainly leaving the option on the table:
“…with the groundings and delivery delays, could we see short-haul Airbus? Never say never.”
It will be interesting to see how this story develops as Air Italy is so tightly connected to Qatar Airways. Dropping an American-made plane in the midst of existing tensions between Qatar and U.S. carriers is likely to add fuel to the fire…