What Happened To Air Italy’s Expansion Plans?

Air Italy hasn’t been around in its current form for very long. In fact, the airline was only rebranded in February 2018 and is still very much in the initial stages of its regrowth. The airline’s leadership and investors had some ambitious plans upon the launch of the rebrand, but how many of them have become a reality?

Air Italy Airbus A330
Air Italy’s fleet was also refreshed with a rebrand. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia Commons

Air Italy was founded back in the early 1960s, and it’s been through a couple of major rebrands since then. What is now Air Italy began as Alisarda in 1963, serving a number of destinations in Italy and further afield in Europe from its base in Obia on the island of Sardinia.

Then, in 1991, a merger brought Alisarda together with Spanish airline Universair. Both airlines were rebranded together as Meridiana. In 2018 Meridiana acquired Air Italy, which had previously operated as a small charter airline, and used the Air Italy brand as the figurehead for its operations.

Plans for the new Air Italy

Qatar Airways actually owns a 49% stake in Meridiana/Air Italy, which means that there were ambitious plans for the rebranded airline from the beginning. In Air Italy’s home market, Alitalia has been the major player for a while. But, over the past three years, Alitalia has been fighting tooth and nail to drag itself away from imminent dissolution.

What Happened To Air Italy’s Expansion Plans?
Air Italy offers flights to a number of destinations around the world. Photo: Simone Previdi via Wikimedia Commons

Back in 2017 Alitalia filed for bankruptcy, and it has spent the last two and a half years desperately searching for investors to rescue it from collapse. One of the main motivations behind the formation of Air Italy was the large gap in the market which would be left behind by Alitalia. But Alitalia is still hanging on, which has made Air Italy’s expansion a bit more tricky. Additionally, Qatar Airways wanted to develop Air Italy into a full-service airline with business class on all flights, another thing which is more difficult to make work in practice.

How has Air Italy’s expansion gone so far?

Air Italy has been doing fine since its rebrand, but interestingly the airline is focusing on flights outside of Europe. Apart from the list of domestic destinations in Italy, a large proportion of its flights are much further afield, including North America, Africa and various destinations in Asia.

Last summer, the airline announced its plans for summer 2020, and while there weren’t any new destinations on the list, the range of holiday destinations offered by the airline are comprehensive and varied.

Air Italy
Air Italy wants to compete with Alitalia. Photo: BriYYZ via Wikimedia Commons

Because the Italian airline industry is not in the best of states at the moment, the largest airline in terms of flights to and from the country is in fact easyJet. As a result, Air Italy’s focus on destinations further afield makes much more sense.

When it comes to low-cost air travel within Europe, the likes of easyJet and Ryanair are very tough competition for full-service airlines, especially one which has just been restructured.

Qatar Airways’ partial ownership has also landed Air Italy in some hot water, specifically from the US ‘big three’, which believe that Qatar is trying to sidestep the open skies agreement between the US and Qatar.

Have you flown on Air Italy yet? Let us know how your experience was by leaving a comment!