After a celebratory countdown at Boeing’s Future of Flight Aviation Center in Seattle, Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker oversaw the unveiling of the first Boeing 737 Max slated for delivery to Air Italy on May 11. Delivery of the airplane—the first of an order placed by Qatar Airways for 20 Max jets scheduled for lease to Air Italy—marks the start of a rebuilding process expected to result in a complement of 50 airplanes in all at the Italian carrier by 2022.
“To see the aircraft here for the first time, it truly brings to life the next exciting chapter for Italy’s future carrier of choice, providing the people of Italy with the sophisticated travel experience that they deserve,” commented Al Baker at the ceremony. Qatar Airways bought a 49 percent stake in Air Italy last year, and now leads a complete image overhaul of the former Meridiana.
Air Italy’s fleet consists of eight Boeing 737 NGs and three Boeing 767-300s. Plans call for three new Boeing 737 Max 8s and five Airbus A330-200s, now with Qatar Airways, to replace the NGs and 767s by the end of the year.
Air Italy officially rebranded as a new corporate identity this past February. Established in 1963 as Alisarda, the airline operated as Meridiana from 1991 through the initial period in which Qatar Airways took a 49-percent stake in AQA Holding, Air Italy’s parent company, last year. The previous shareholder, Alisarda, retained 51 percent.
Air Italy has continued to expand offerings with short-haul routes connecting Milan, Rome, Palermo, Naples, and, at the beginning of this month, Olbia. It plans to launch a route from Milan to Catania this July and a service between Milan and Lamezia Terme this September. Air Italy plans to launch the first long-range destination from Rome Fiumicino in 2019 and expects to fly more than 50 year-round routes by 2022.