Aviation

Another European airline goes under

Christian Fleetwood

Christian Fleetwood

Air Italy has been placed into voluntary administration, the latest in a string of European airlines to fold in the last two years.

In a statement issued on 11 February, Air Italy said the decision followed a shareholders’ meeting, which decided the ‘liquidation in bonis’ of the airline.

The nation’s second largest airline after struggling Alitalia, Air Italy was controlled by holding company Alisadra (51 per cent) and Qatar Airways (49 per cent).

In a press statement, part-owner Qatar Airways suggested that it would have been prepared to extend further support to the airline, formerly known as Meridiana.

This could indicate there was a difference of opinion between the Doha-based carrier and Alisadra over the future of Air Italy before their agreed decision to liquidate it.

“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,” Qatar Airways said.

“For this reason, 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.”

For the two weeks following its announcement, all Air Italy flights will be operated by other carriers. All passengers booked to fly after 25 February 2020 will be re-protected or fully refunded.

Based in Sardinia, Air Italy operated flights across Italy and to long-haul destinations around the world from a fleet of Airbus A330s and Boeing 737s, including a reported three in-service Boeing 737 MAX 8s.

The impact of the ongoing grounding of Boeing’s 737 MAX 8 on Air Italy remains unclear.

Image: “Delivery flight of the first Air Italy Max 8” by Simone Previdi is licensed under CC BY-SA 4.0

Air Italy also offered direct flights from Italy to locations in Africa, including Cairo and Lagos.

The airline is the latest in a string of European airlines to fold in the last two years, including Iceland’s low-cost Wow Air, Slovenia’s flag carrier Adria Airways, and France’s Aigle Azur.

Meanwhile, Italian flagship carrier Alitalia continues to fly despite the airline reportedly losing around €2 million ($3.3 million) per day, according to a December report by Reuters.

According to multiple reports, the airline, which was previously financed by Etihad Airways, is being backed by a bridge loan from the Italian government. However, the government had said that it will not continue to pour public funds into the enterprise.

Industry Minister Stefano Patuanelli said the company could shut down as soon as mid-2020 without a buyer and an effective turn-around plan, Reuters reported.

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