Italian carrier Meridiana has been rebranded to Air Italy as it looks to grow backed by new shareholder Qatar Airways, which took a 49 per cent stake in the airline last year.
Air Italy aims to have approximately 50 aircraft by 2022 and is already committed to receiving 20 new Boeing 737-Max aircraft from April 2018, over the next three years.
The carrier will also receive five Airbus A330-200 aircraft this year from the Qatar Airways’ fleet, prior to these being further replaced by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, commencing May 2019.
The route network will also be expanded as part of the new strategy, with new long-range routes starting later this year from Milan to New York and Miami, which will soon be followed by new short-haul routes connecting Milan and the airline’s long range destinations to Rome, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Lamezia Terme.
Further plans also include strengthening the short-range network to improve connectivity and launching the first long-range destination from Rome Fiumicino in 2019. Air Italy aims to fly more than 50 year-round routes by 2022.
Qatar Airways previously strengthened its commitment to Italy in 2017 with the acquisition of 49 per cent of AQA Holding, the new parent company of Air Italy, while the previous sole shareholder Alisarda kept 51 per cent.
Qatar Airways Group chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways is known the world over as the best airline in the world, as voted for in Skytrax 2017. It is with this ambition and dedication to the passenger experience that we will work together to build a sustainable airline alternative for the people of Italy and global travellers to and from this beautiful country.”
“With high quality and an affordable schedule of services in the domestic, regional and intercontinental segments, Air Italy will achieve global scale in both fleet and network expansion, offering high-quality premium class products across all flights on a modern fleet,” he added.
Alisarda chairman, Marco Rigotti, added: “Our ambition is strong now as it has been throughout our history, starting with the aim of assisting in the development of tourism in Costa Smeralda and, later, to develop the leisure and charter Italian marketplace.
“Air Italy aims to be a leader in the global industry, thanks to the airline’s hub in Milan Malpensa, and the reinforced base of Rome Fiumicino, alongside the seasonal network from Olbia’s Costa Smeralda heritage base which is also the headquarters of the airline.”
Meridiana’s chairman, Francesco Violante said: “Air Italy has an ambition to reach a goal of transporting 10 million passengers per year by 2022 traveling to, from and via Italy. We expect more than 8 million of these to use Milan Malpensa Airport.”
The rebranding comes as fellow Italian carrier Alitalia is in ‘extraordinary administration’ since a restructuring plan was rejected last year and the government is in the process of finding a buyer.