Air Italy, previously known as Meridiana, announced that flights from February 11 through February 25 would be operated by other airline carriers as the company has suspended operations and decided to liquidate the company. Italy’s second-biggest airline after troubled flag carrier Alitalia said that the decision to wind up the company was made at a meeting of its shareholders. Alisarda, founded by the Aga Khan, controlled 51% of Air Italy, while Qatar Airways had a 49% stake in the company.
The owners of the Milan-based carrier, which operated flights throughout Italy, Europe and to long-haul destinations in Asia and the Americas indicated that flights booked after February 25 will be refunded. In a statement, Qatar indicated that it would have been ready to invest more in the airline.
“Even with the changing competitive environment and the increasingly difficult market conditions severely impacting the air transport industry, Qatar Airways has continually reaffirmed its commitment, as a minority shareholder, to continue investing in the company,”
They added that “Qatar Airways was ready once again to play its part in supporting the growth of the airline, but this would only have been possible with the commitment of all shareholders.”
Meanwhile, the Italian government has been propping up Alitalia while it looks for investors to relaunch the company, according to Reuters. Air Italy is the latest in a string of European airlines to suffer from fierce competition and shifting business models. Primera Air ceased operations in October 2018. In early 2019, German airline Germania and Icelandic airline WOW Air filed for bankruptcy and in Fall 2019, British airline Thomas Cook Airlines, Slovenian airline Adria, and French airlines Aigle Azur and XL Airways France stopped flying.
The grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX has added to pressure on the airline industry and became a significant financial burden to Air Italy as the carrier struggled to turn a profit. The airline reported a financial loss of $179 million in 2018 and $218 million in 2019. Air Italy had three Boeing 737 Max jets in its fleet and planned on having 20 in total as they hope to transition to an all Boeing fleet with the help of Qatar Airways whom they were to lease Boeing 787s to replace the 4 Airbus A330s currently in the fleet.