Just months after their launch, Air Italy is canceling all flights to Asia. The airline announced on Thursday that it will discontinue service from Milan (MXP) to Mumbai (BOM) on February 17 and Milan (MXP) to Delhi (DEL) on March 29. The airline is also set to cancel its Milan (MXP) to Bangkok (BKK) flights starting March 31.
Air Italy started service to Bangkok on September 10, 2018 and Delhi and Mumbai on December 6, 2018. Accordingly, the airline is ready to pull out of the Indian market after less than two months.
Originally, Air Italy had high hopes for its Indian routes. It wanted to connect India with the United States via its hub in Milan. Furthermore, it was entertaining the idea of entering into a codeshare agreement with Vistatra, a domestic Indian airline. Apparently, these plans did not work out for Air Italy though.
Why is Air Italy canceling the flights to Asia?
According to The Times of India, Air Italy stated that it “will be making… network amendments […] due to a combination of strategic network consolidation and route prioritization, aircraft delivery changes, and market dynamics.” The airline did not elaborate on what exactly this means though.
Air Italy did, however, mention that it will offer additional flights to the United States and Canada this summer. As a matter of fact, the airline will serve Milan to Miami (MIA) five times instead of four times per week and Milan to Toronto (YYZ) six times instead of four times per week.
Nevertheless, at the same time, Air Italy has postponed the launch of its flights to Chicago to 2020. The airline was expected to start service from Milan to Chicago in May. This is very interesting because Air Italy is supposedly trying to expand its route network to the United States. A group of several U.S. carriers called the “Partnership for Open & Fair Skies”, however, has shown opposition to this plan.
Why is there opposition?
The “Partnership for Open & Fair Skies” was founded to combat the big three Middle Eastern airlines (Emirates, Etihad Airways, and Qatar Airways). According to the group, the three airlines “are aiming to dominate global aviation by exploiting Open Skies policy” […] “fueled by massive government subsidies.” Last January, Qatar entered into an agreement with the United States that prohibits the airline from conducting fifth freedom flights (flights among two foreign countries) to the United States among other things.
So, what does this have to do with Air Italy? Qatar Airways owns 49% of Air Italy. Consequently, the “Partnership for Open & Fair Skies” has accused Qatar Airways of using Air Italy to launch additional routes to the United States. This step violates last year’s agreement with the U.S. government. Air Italy has denied the accusations stating that it was not managed by Qatar Airways. Qatar Airways was only a minority stakeholder in Air Italy.
It remains to be seen what kind of strategic network amendments Air Italy is talking about. Now that the airline will no longer offer flights to Asia, is it going to introduce additional flights to the United States? What do you think?