Where Did Air Italy’s Aircraft End Up?

In February 2020, Air Italy announced its liquidation and suspension of operations. At this time, it had amassed a sizeable enough fleet to become Italy’s second-largest airline behind flag carrier Alitalia. But what became of its aircraft after the airline folded?

Air Italy Airbus A330-202 EI-GGN JFK Vincenzo Pace
Air Italy’s largest aircraft were its Airbus A330s. Photo: Vincenzo Pace | Simple Flying

The fate of Air Italy’s A330s

In the aftermath of Air Italy’s liquidation announcement, Simple Flying considered what might happen to its planes. Now, more than a year on, and with the benefit of hindsight, we can answer this question conclusively. Let’s start with its largest aircraft, the Airbus A330.

According to Planespotters.net, Air Italy operated four A330-200s at the time of its collapse. A fifth example, registered as EI-GGN, had already left the airline in January 2020. After a brief storage period in Doha, Qatar, it joined Luke Air. This will be a rebrand of Italy’s Blue Panorama Airlines, although the aircraft has been stored in Naples since March 2020.

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Qatar Airways Airbus A330
Air Italy’s last four A330s returned to Qatar Airways, only to be placed into storage at the end of last year. Photo: Mike McBey via Flickr

The remaining four A330s, which featured a two-class, 260-seat configuration (24 business and 236 economy), returned to Qatar Airways. The Doha-based carrier had a 49% share in Air Italy, so it was an obvious choice when it came to leasing such aircraft.

All four examples have now entered storage in Teruel, Spain. They arrived at the facility between September and December last year. Qatar Airways has elected to return three of the aircraft to their lessor, Castlelake. These planes are all either 17 or 18 years old, so it will be interesting to see what sort of a future they end up having in the post-COVID airline world.

Boeing 737NG models

At the time of its collapse, Air Italy’s short-haul fleet consisted largely of models from the Boeing 737NG (Next Generation) family. For example, it operated a single 737-700, registered as EI-FFM. This 22-year-old aircraft flew for several German carriers before joining Meridiana, Air Italy’s predecessor, in 2014. It has been stored at Cotswold Airport since April 2020.

Air Italy Boeing 737
EI-FNU is now a China-based cargo aircraft. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Air Italy’s remaining 737NG aircraft were from the 737-800 series. Two of these have been in storage last year, including 22-year-old EI-FDS, which has sat in Lasham, UK since last April. Meanwhile, EI-FNW has been dormant in Kaunas, Lithuania since June 2020. The other example, EI-FNU, underwent a cargo conversion and now flies for China Central Longhao Airlines.

The 737 MAX

The youngest aircraft in Air Italy’s fleet at the time of its collapse were its Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes. These had been at the airline for less than a year when the type was grounded worldwide due to two fatal accidents involving it that bore striking parallels.

Air Italy Boeing 737 MAX
Air Italy’s 737 MAX aircraft are currently stored in Budapest. Photo: Aldo Bidini via Wikimedia Commons

Due to the enforced grounding period, EI-GGL sat at Milan Malpensa for 16 months. This period lasted from March 2019 to July 2020, straddling the airline’s collapse. At the end of this time, it made the short intra-European hop to Budapest, Hungary for further storage.

Meanwhile, EI-GFY saw a little more action during this time. It spent the first six months of the grounding in Cairo, Egypt, before joining its counterpart in Milan. It also then transferred to Budapest, albeit a month before EI-GGL. These aircraft are the most likely to enjoy a new lease of life after the pandemic has subsided. For the older aircraft, the clock is ticking.

Which was your favorite plane in the Air Italy fleet? Did you ever fly with the airline? let us know your thoughts and experiences in the comments.