UPDATE 11-02-2020, 16:00 (UTC +3) Air Italy announced that the carrier will suspend operations after February 25, 2020. From February 11 till February 25, 2020, other airlines will operate Air Italy flights. The decision comes after a shareholder meeting, whereupon it was decided to liquidate the company.
Air Italy is, reportedly, facing financial difficulties. So much so, that a special shareholder meeting is being held on February 11, 2020, to decide the fate of the carrier, reports local media. The Milan-based company is owned by AQA Holding, which in turn, is owned by Alisarda (51%) and Qatar Airways (49%).
After a fanfare-filled launch in February 2018, Air Italy and Qatar Airways had very ambitious plans: 50 aircraft by 2022. 20 of those would be brand-new Boeing 737 MAX aircraft, all of which were supposed to be delivered by 2021, as announced by a press release that also indicated Meridiana’s switch to the Air Italy brand. Qatar Airways’ CEO Akbar Al Baker stated that the airline aims to help Air Italy become “a sustainable airline alternative for the people of Italy” and passengers from all around the world, with the ambition and dedication towards the passenger experience on board.
However, reality soon kicked in: after a very ambitious growth period, including new flights to New York John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) and Miami International Airport (MIA) and a few triggered U.S. airline executives, the airline ended its FY2019 with a $148.8 million (QR541.8 million) loss. Qatar Airways had to absorb $72 million (QR265 million) of Air Italy’s losses, stated the airline’s consolidated financial statements.
Local media indicates that the other shareholding party was looking for a new investor to take over, as more cash was needed to keep the company running. Qatar Airways is limited by European Union laws that prohibit non-EU nationals to hold a majority stake in an airline, thus the Doha-based company is unable to provide the money needed.
Much of Air Italy‘s problems stem from the Boeing 737 MAX crisis – after all, almost half of its fleet by 2022 was supposed to be the now-grounded aircraft. Currently, the carrier owns 12 aircraft: three of which are the grounded MAX planes.
AeroTime approached both Air Italy and Qatar Airways for comment.