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Qatar Airways blitzes media as Air Italy is born

February 22, 2018 Headline News No Comments Email Email

In two separate simultaneous moves, Qatar Airways has brilliantly captured the attention of the world’s aviation media by backing the rebranded Italian airline Meridiana to challenge troubled Italian flag carrier Alitalia – while at the same time taking delivery of the world’s first state-of-the-art Airbus A350-1000 airliner.

On the Italian front, Meridiana is rebranding as Air Italy. It will start receiving new aircraft from this April and it plans to operate a fleet of 50 aircraft and carry 10 million passengers by 2022. It will take on Alitalia.

Alitalia entered special administration last year, after its 49% shareholder Etihad (a big rival of Qatar) withdrew its support.  Alitalia’s predicament has occupied the attention of fellow SkyTeam member Air France-KLM. See: Air France-KLM wary of Alitalia quitting SkyTeam

Now Qatar has taken a 49% stake in the new parent company of Meridiana.

Air Italy’s “fresh and modern brand identity” was unveiled yesterday in a press conference in Milan.

Air Italy born – bold new re-branding revealed

A statement issued by Qatar Airways said:  “Air Italy aims to have approximately 50 aircraft by 2022 and is already committed to receiving 20 of the brand new Boeing 737-Max aircraft type from April 2018, over the next three years.

“Air Italy will also receive five Airbus A330-200 aircraft this year from the Qatar Airways’ fleet, prior to these being further replaced by Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner aircraft, commencing May 2019.”

It said network destinations would enjoy continued expansion, “with new long-range routes from Milan to New York and Miami already announced recently, that will soon be followed by new short-haul routes connecting Milan and the airline’s long range destinations to Rome, Naples, Palermo, Catania and Lamezia Terme.

“Further plans also include strengthening the short-range network to improve connectivity and launching the first long-range destination from Rome Fiumicino in 2019.”

Qatar Airways chief executive, Akbar Al Baker, said: “Qatar Airways is known the world over as the best airline in the world, as voted for in Skytrax 2017. It is with this ambition and dedication to the passenger experience that we will work together to build a sustainable airline alternative for the people of Italy and global travellers to and from this beautiful country.”

MEANWHILE, Qatar Airways is revelling in the distinction of being the global launch customer for “the world’s most advanced passenger aircraft featuring the revolutionary Qsuite”.

Fabrice Brégier of Airbus with Qatar Airways chief Akbar Al Baker holding a model of the new Airbus A350-1000

The carrier’s A350-1000 is the first of 42 on order. It was welcomed into Qatar Airways’ fleet at a ceremony in Toulouse, France, yesterday, before an audience of international media at the Airbus Delivery Centre in Toulouse, France.

The “remarkable state-of-the-art aircraft” would make Qatar Airways “the biggest operator in the world of this aircraft type and maintain our status as flying one of the youngest fleets in the sky, with an average age of just five years,” Al Baker told media.

Compared to the A350-900, the A350-1000 features 44 extra seats, with a two-class cabin of 46 award-winning Qsuite Business Class seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, featuring 80-inch fully flat beds and 22-inch HD in-flight entertainment screens. This will include 46 suites, with the middle suites able to convert to six double beds, and six quad suites.

Economy Class will contain 281 seats, each 18-inches wide in a 3-3-3 configuration, with up to a 32-inch pitch. Each individual seat will feature an 11.6-inch in-flight entertainment screen, and extra space at shoulder level for passengers in window seats, thanks to the near vertical side wall panels.

Like the A350-900, more than 70 per cent of the A350-1000’s lightweight airframe is made from advanced materials combining composites (53%), titanium and advanced aluminium alloys.

Written by Peter Needham

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