Air Italy (registered as AIR ITALY S.p.A.) was a privately owned Italian airline, headquartered in Olbia, Sardinia. In 2019 the company was the second largest airline in Italy, following Italy's flag carrier Alitalia, and the 40th largest airline in Europe by number of passengers as of 2019. The airline was a subsidiary of AQA Holding, owned by Alisarda (51%) and Qatar Airways (49%). The airline operated a fleet of Boeing 737 Next Generation, Boeing 737 MAX 8 and Airbus A330 aircraft to over 34 scheduled domestic, European and intercontinental destinations. The airline operated from its main hub at Milan Malpensa Airport.
|Founded||29 March 1963 as [Alisarda]|
|Commenced operations||1 March 2018|
|Ceased operations||11 February 2020|
16 April 2020
|Hubs||Milan Malpensa Airport|
(Part of Avios Loyalty program)
|Parent company||AQA Holding S.p.A|
|Headquarters||Olbia, Sassari, Italy|
On 11 February 2020, Air Italy ceased all its own operations and went into liquidation, while it was announced that all routes would be served until 25 February 2020 by third-party carriers. However, on 19 February 2020, the airline re-opened ticket sales for their Milan Linate-Olbia and Rome-Fiumicino-Olbia PSO routes and operated them until 16 April 2020.
In 1963 Alisarda was established to provide a fast and reliable air service connecting Olbia, gateway from the newly-created resort of the Costa Smeralda, to the major Italian and European destinations. In 2 May 1991, Alisarda rebranded the airline to be known as Meridiana.
The airline later rebranded as Meridiana Fly after the acquisition and merger of defunct Italian airline eurofly, later returning to its original name Meridiana after the acquisition of the former charter airline Air Italy (which operated from 2005 to 2018, since 2013 operated under the Meridiana brand).
Launch of the new Air ItalyEdit
Air Italy was established on 19 February 2018. A press conference in Milan announced that Meridiana airline and its subsidiary, the original Air Italy, which had been part of Meridiana since 2013, would be merged to create the new Air Italy. The focus of the company was to introduce a stable new Italian airline which could become the flagship carrier of Italy. Air Italy's competitor Alitalia, Italy's current flag carrier, had filed for administration on 2 May 2017. The plan also introduced a new brand image, new cabin experience, new airport lounge and new destinations. During the press conference, the airline expressed interest in joining the Oneworld airline alliance. The airline also announced that Qatar Airways would have a Codeshare agreement with the airline.
All branding and business of the new Air Italy took effect on 1 March 2018. The Meridiana IATA, ICAO, and AOC codes were merged into the new Air Italy. The airline website was relaunched with the re-branding. Aircraft transferred from Meridiana still used the Meridiana livery with Air Italy titles. Meridiana codeshare agreements and slots were transferred to the new Air Italy brand.
In April 2018, Air Italy and Qatar Airways launched their planned codeshare on selected flights. On 18 April 2018 the airline appointed Neil Mills as chief operating officer (COO) who had worked with the recently bankrupt airline Air Berlin. and introduced Rossen Dimitrov as Chief Customer Experience Officer (CCEO) on 22 April.
On 22 April 2018, Air Italy became the Italian launch customer of the Boeing 737 MAX 8. The first aircraft was fully painted, introduced to the public on Air Italy's social media pages. The airline's first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft was delivered at a handover ceremony at Boeing's Everett Delivery Centre in Seattle with Boeing executives on 11 May 2018. The airline celebrated the delivery of the first Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft on 14 May after the aircraft was handed over to Air Italy in Seattle. The airline held a special press conference in a hangar at its Milan–Malpensa hub. The airline also introduced its new uniforms.
On 1 June 2018, Air Italy launched its new Milan Malpensa Airport to John F. Kennedy International Airport flight with the airline's first Airbus A330-200. The flight also marked the launch of its new seatback entertainment platform, onboard amenities and meal services. Air Italy continued expand operations, launching more routes and services. In July, Air Italy attended the Farnborough Airshow showcasing its second Boeing 737 MAX 8, making it the first time Air Italy attended the airshow. On 20 September, Air Italy released its first summer season report. The airline stated that it had reached 90% load factor on the new US routes and carried more than 500,000 passengers to and from Sardinia. On the back of the successful results, the airline announced new frequencies.
On 3 October 2018, Air Italy Chief Operating Officer, Neil Mills, resigned due to personal reasons. Effective immediately Rossen Dimitrov, formerly Air Italy's Chief Customer Experience Officer was appointed as the airline's new COO with immediate effect. In October 2018, Air Italy announced 3 appointments to senior positions. Elisabeth Milton as Vice President of Sales and Distribution, Nicola Pozzati as Chief Human Resources and Organisation Officer, and Simona Paccioretti as Head of Internal Auditing. Further executive appointments were made on 29 October 2018 with Captain Konstantinos Iliakis brought in as Accountable Manager and Chief Flight and Ground Operations Officer. On 21 November, Valentina Quagliata was appointed with the title of SVP for Network, Planning, and Strategy. On the same day, Air Italy also announced a codeshare agreement with LATAM Brasil, effective immediately for selected flights between Italy and São Paulo–Guarulhos International Airport.
In December 2018, Air Italy announced the launch of its Milan Malpensa to Indira Gandhi International Airport and Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj International Airport, India. Air Italy also announced four new routes to North America: from Milan Malpensa to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Chicago in the United States and Milan Malpensa to Toronto, Canada.
On 11 February 2019, Air Italy announced frequency increase on flights to Toronto and Miami. On 15 February, Air Italy announced it would sponsor the Toronto Pride as official European carrier.
On 19 February, Air Italy received an award for Business Traveller Cellar in the sky 2018 award. On 25 February, Air Italy announces it's the official carrier of Gelato Festival 2019. On 28 February 2019, Air Italy signed a third codeshare agreement with Bulgaria Air.
On 12 March 2019, during the Boeing 737 MAX groundings, Air Italy grounded all their Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft after an order by the European Aviation Safety Agency. Two days after the grounding, Air Italy's codeshare partner Bulgaria Air leased an A319 to Air Italy.
On 14 March, Air Italy announced that Sergio Boscarol, Head of Corporate and Commercial HR at Alitalia (Air Italy's competitor & Italy's flag carrier) was appointed as Chief Human Resources and Organization Officer for the airline. On 3 April 2019, Air Italy launched its Milan to Los Angeles International Airport flight and its new Business Class on-board experience. On 10 April 2019, Air Italy launched its Milan to San Francisco International Airport flight. On 18 April, Air Italy made a public statement regarding the allegations from the United States top three airlines (Delta, American Airlines, and United) that Air Italy is used as a Fifth Freedom airline of Qatar Airways.
Later that week, Air Italy made an announcement of its upcoming winter routes and also announced that flights to Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Toronto will be seasonal. On 6 May 2019, Air Italy launched its third North American destination from Milan to Toronto Pearson International Airport. Later in the month, Air Italy announced a new partnership with comedienne Caroline Reid (known as Pam Ann) who will be Air Italy's global brand ambassador. On 17 May 2019, Air Italy announced a rebranding of its frequent-flyer program, Meridiana Club to @MyAirItalyClub.
On 14 June 2019, Air Italy signed a Special Prorate Agreement with Alaska Airlines adding more connections to 10 new US/Mexico destinations including Anchorage, Honolulu, Las Vegas, Seattle, Portland, Palm Springs, San Diego, Newark, San Jose (CA) and Guadalajara (Mexico). 5 July Air Italy announced its winter schedule with new destinations to the Maldives, Tenerife, Mombasa and Zanzibar. Air Italy announced the adoption of Fast Track at their Milan Malpensa hub and Linate airport on 8 July. 10 July, Air Italy signed a second Special Prorate Agreement with Aegean Airlines with new connections to Athens.
On 10 September, Air Italy was awarded four stars in annual APEX passenger ratings. On 11 September, Air Italy launched new inflight menus and inflight services for economy passengers on long-haul flights. On 17 September, Air Italy received the award for most LGBTQ+ friendly Italian airline. In September 2019, Air Italy won two awards at AIR Convention Europe in Lithuania for Diversity Award & Most Captivating Marketing Project award.
On 8 November 2019, Air Italy appointed Shiju Thomas as the airline's chief information officer. On 12 November, Air Italy appointed Yousef Elzaro as the airline's chief financial officer. On 14 November, Air Italy board of directors announced that they have appointed Roberto Spada, to replace Francesco Violante, who stepped down as Air Italy's chairman on 31 October 2019.
On 11 February 2020, Air Italy ceased its own operations. This decision was made following the shareholders' meeting of Air Italy (Alisarda and Qatar Airways through AQA Holdings spa). According to the airline, its flights were operated by other carriers according to the original schedule between 11 and 25 February.
On 19 February, Air Italy reopened ticket sales for two public service obligation (PSO) routes, Milan Linate-Olbia and Rome-Fiumicino-Olbia, and planned to operate them between 14 March and 16 April 2020, the date of PSO contract expiry. The airline operated the routes until 3 February 2020, when the Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport closed due to maintenance works for 40 days.
Ownership and structureEdit
Air Italy S.p.A. was 100% owned by its parent company AQA Holding S.p.A., founded on 2 September 2017 after Qatar Airways purchased a 49% stake in Meridiana (later rebranded as the new Air Italy). Alisarda retains a 51% stake.
- Meridiana Maintenance S.p.A. is an airline maintenance company, founded after Meridiana merged with eurofly (another Italian airline). Their hangar is located at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport in Olbia, Italy next to the Air Italy Head Offices. On 10 September 2018 it was announced that Air Italy would be insourcing Meridiana Maintenance as of 1 October 2018.
- Wokita S.r.l is a tour operator, offering a range of tourism products such as package tours, flights, hotels and resorts in seaside areas, yachting and activity holidays.
- Air Italy Fleet Management Company S.p.A. is a temporarily created company (formerly the original Air Italy). It will only be in operation until all the original Meridiana (Boeing B737-700, B737-800, B767-300ER) aircraft leases are expired.
Head office and LeadershipEdit
The Leadership team at Air Italy was as follows:
- Roberto Spada, Chairman
- Rossen Dimitrov, chief operating officer
- Shiju Thomas, chief information officer
- Yousef Elzaro, chief financial officer
- Ct. Konstantinos Iliakis, Chief Flight and Ground Operations Officer
- Sergio Boscarol, Chief Human Resources and Organization Officer
The Air Italy logo was designed with maroon and mint green colors. The colours are loosely based on the maroon from the Qatar Airways logo. The airline had a specialty design the letter "Y" to look looking somewhat similar to a bird. The airline's livery is a modern white fuselage with the airline logo across the fuselage in a billboard style livery. It also included a collage of their special designed "Y" letter taken from the logo, on the vertical fin. The letter Y was also present on the aircraft engines.
The United States' three largest airlines, Delta, American Airlines, and United made allegations regarding Air Italy's ownership and operation because of its support from Qatar Airways. Air Italy made a public statement on the issue with a press release on 18 April 2019. Ed Bastian, Chief executive officer of Delta posted an op-ed article on the airline in December 2018 claiming that since Qatar is a state-funded airline of the Government of Qatar supporting a nearly bankrupt Italian airline, it is "putting thousands of American jobs at risk". A couple of US politicians wrote letters to United States Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, on the situation with Qatar going against a United States-Qatar Open Skies Policy. Air Italy and Qatar Airways denied the allegations and stated that this allegation existed due to Qatar Airways' 49% stake in Air Italy's Parent Company.
As of February 2019, Air Italy operated to 21-year-round and 5 seasonal destinations in Europe, Africa, Asia and North America. Air Italy aimed to fly more than 50-year-round routes by 2022 stated in the airline's five-year plan. The airline operated most of their flights out of their main hub at Milan Malpensa Airport, and a second operation network out of their focus city at Olbia Costa Smeralda Airport.
Special Prorate AgreementEdit
Air Italy had a Special Prorate Agreements with the following airlines:
|Airbus A330-200||4||—||24||228||252||bought by Luke Air|
|Boeing 737 MAX 8||3||—||12||174||186|
After rebranding of the airline as Air Italy, Boeing 737 aircraft that had been operated by Meridiana were used to operate the airline's route network. Air Italy planned to develop its fleet by operating 50 new aircraft by 2022, through sub-leasing 20 Boeing 737 MAX 8s and 30 Boeing 787-8s from Qatar Airways, with entry into service between 2018 and 2022. From 2018 to 2019, Qatar Airways planned to lease five of its own Airbus A330-200s to Air Italy at market rate, with Boeing 787-8s transferred to Air Italy from mid-2019 after the delivery of Boeing 787-9s to Qatar Airways during the same period.
In May 2019 the airline said that due to delays in the delivery of Qatar Airways' Boeing 787-9s, the planned transfer of Qatar's Boeing 787-8s to Air Italy had been delayed, resulting in Air Italy choosing instead to expand its long-haul operations with additional Airbus A330s from Qatar Airways. Additionally, after the airline's first three Boeing 737 MAX 8s were grounded, the possibility of transitioning to an Airbus narrowbody fleet was considered.
Historical Air Italy FleetEdit
Air Italy used to operate the following aircraft types:
|Boeing 767-300ER||3||2018||2019||Airbus A330-200||Taken over from predecessor Meridiana.|
Business class was offered on Air Italy's Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. Business class on the Airbus A330 was configured with flat bed seats in a 2-2-2 layout, while the Boeing 737 MAX was configured with seats in a 3–3 layout identical to that of economy class, but with the middle seat blocked. On flights operated by the Airbus A330, an amenity kit by Italian brands Fedon and Acca Kappa along with designer pajamas and slippers were provided, and an extensive, personalized meal service was offered. All business class seats were also equipped with AC power ports.
Economy class on the Airbus A330 was fitted with slimline seats in a 2-4-2 layout, while economy class on the Boeing 737 and 737 MAX was fitted with seats in a 3–3 layout. AC power ports were available, but only on the airline's Airbus A330 and Boeing 737 MAX aircraft. On medium and long-haul flights, a complementary meal was served, while short-haul flights offered a complementary drinks service with additional snacks.
The airlines In-flight entertainment was only available on its Airbus A330 aircraft, which were equipped with personal seat-back television screens and USB charging ports at every seat. The A330 aircraft also offered in-flight satellite Wi-Fi for an additional fee. For business class passengers, 60MB of complimentary WiFi data was provided.
Air Italy's in-flight magazine was called Atmosphere, and was inherited from Meridiana. It was produced by travel media experts Ink, based in the UK.
@MyAirItalyClub was Air Italy's frequent-flyer program, which was launched on 17 May 2019. Through the program, customers could earn Avios points from Air Italy flights; these could also be earned or redeemed with partner airlines British Airways and Iberia, as well as partner car rentals, hotel bookings, news subscriptions, utilities, and more. The program used to be known as Meridiana Club.
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Media related to Air Italy at Wikimedia Commons