Air Italy, which once hoped to replace a bankrupt Alitalia as Italy's flag carrier, is ending all operations February 25, its faltering business pushed over the edge by a variety of factors including loss of its Boeing 737 MAX planes and a sharp dropoff in Chinese visitors because of the coronavirus epidemic.
The airline, which operated under the Meridiana brand name for most of its history, flew charter and scheduled flights in Italy as well as long-distance flights to mainly leisure destinations in Africa and North America. In 2018, its owning group, a Sardinian company controlled by the Aga Khan's family, sold 49% to Qatar Airways, and Air Italy replaced the Meridiana brand name.
Qatar has said that it wanted the airline to continue, and would have been willing to invest more to keep it going. It could not acquire more of the company because of a requirement for majority European ownership, but is not known to have made serious efforts to find new partners.
Meanwhile, Alitalia, bankrupt since 2017, continues to operate on state-backed bridge loans and has even shown profits in some quarters. A government-brokered plan for the airline to be acquired and operated by a consortium of the Italian State Railways, Delta Airlines and Atlantia, a controversial Italian infrastructure company, has been stalled in negotiations for over a year, while the airline continues to forge new alliances, including with Brazil's Azul. And recently, Lufthansa has been sniffing at the door, indicating that if the partnership succeeds in building a profitable airline, it would be interested in investing...or in buying it.