Earlier this week, Qatar Airways announced that it had bought out nearly half of Italian carrier Meridiana, expanding its international holdings and moving to expand the Italian airline as the national airline Alitalia continues to battle budget problems.
Meridiana is Italy’s second-largest airline and the fifth largest carrier operating in Italy in terms of market share. The airline operates a fleet of 16 aircraft to 66 destinations across four continents and operates a mix of charter and scheduled flights. Qatar Airways CEO Akbar al-Baker is expected to announce more detailed expansion plans in the coming weeks. The remaining 51% of the Italian company will still be held by Meridiana’s parent company, Alisarda.
However, al-Baker has already outlined a broad vision for Meridiana and intends to turn Meridiana into “Italy’s ‘real’ national carrier”. Over the next six months, the Sicily-based carrier will be taking delivery of either Boeing 787 or Airbus A330 widebody jets, and narrowbody Boeing 737MAX aircraft, all from Qatar Airways’ order book, according to Reuters. Meridiana currently operates four Boeing 767 widebody jets.
Reports say that 20 Boeing 737MAX aircraft will be delivered to the airline, however, there is no news on how many widebody aircraft will be delivered to the airline. At the time of writing, Qatar Airways has 26 Airbus A330 aircraft and 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft in its fleet, with another 30 Boeing 787 Dreamliner aircraft on order.
As part of the deal, the airline re-negotiated contracts with its employees, including salaries, working hours and benefits. al-Baker did not go into detail about the negotiations, but said that Qatar Airways had “a very frank talk with the unions” which had been “very accommodating”. Speaking about the negotiations, al-Baker said that “they [the unions] realized we are not going to just shrink the airline in the beginning, but that we are going to massively grow the carrier to become the real national carrier of Italy”.
The investment comes as Alitalia, the Italian flag carrier, is going through bankruptcy procedures and continues to struggle to fund its daily operations. With prime bidder Ryanair reportedly pulling out over its own recent cancellation troubles, the airline continues to delay studying its bids while hemorrhaging money.
Featured image by Fabrizio Berni via Wikimedia Commons.