Air Italy, the airline partially owned by Qatar Airways has reversed its plans to introduce the Boeing 787 Dreamliner into its long haul fleet. It is believed that Air Italy planned to introduce 20-30 787s into its fleet in the coming years, Aeronautics online reports in an article by Alec Mollenhauer.
Originally, Qatar Airways planned to transfer a portion of its Boeing 787-8 fleet to Air Italy once it began taking delivery of the 787-9. This would mean that Air Italy should have began adding Boeing 787s into its fleet this month, but this has not happened. The Qatar 787-9 deliveries will begin later than expected this year due to issues with Boeing’s supply chain.
Initially, Air Italy planned a very aggressive expansion by launching service to New York, Miami, Los Angeles, Chicago, Toronto, and San Francisco in North America alone. The airline ended up cancelling the planned flights to Chicago well before they were actually scheduled to start.
Air Italy also launched service to Mumbai, Bangkok, and Delhi only to ax the service within a couple of weeks of launch. Air Italy also announced that San Francisco, Toronto, and Los Angeles would all be seasonal destinations rather than year-round as originally planned, Aeronautics online reports. In light of the delayed 787s, Air Italy has opted to move forward with an all A330 long haul fleet. Air Italy currently has 5 A330-200s, all of which are leased from Qatar Airways. This lack of long haul aircraft may be the main reason the airline has cut its expansion plans as a fleet of 5 aircraft is not enough to run a significant long haul network. Air Italy plans to add 2 more A330-200 aircraft into its fleet in the coming months.
Qatar has a total of 7 more A330-200 aircraft remaining in its fleet. A fleet of 7 A330 falls well short of the airline’s plans to operate a fleet of 20-30 long haul aircraft.
Italy is also a challenging country to maintain long haul flights from, Aeronautics online reports. This is because much of the demand to Italy, especially Rome, is driven by tourism, which peaks in the summer and is almost non existent in winter.
In other European countries such as France, Germany, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and Switzerland, there is enough business driven demand for air travel that flights can be maintained year round to North America despite operating on a reduced schedule. Air Italy may be better off attempting to fly to North American destinations in the Summer and South American destinations during the Winter.
The downfall of many new airlines is expanding too quickly. A prime example of this is WOW Air, as the Icelandic carrier launched service to 6 North American destinations in a span of 3 years. The airline went bankrupt earlier this year. It is a good sign that Air Italy is reevaluating its aggressive expansion plans before it is too late. Air Italy has said that it is maintaining an all A330 fleet for the consistency of the product as well as the simplicity of a single aircraft type fleet.
This also brings up the issue of Air Italy’s narrowbody fleet. Currently, the airline has orders for 17 more 737 MAX 8 aircraft in addition to the 3 it has already taken delivery of. With the grounding of the 737 MAX that does not have a clear timeline, the airline is re-evaluating its narrowbody fleet. This means that Air Italy may choose to switch to the Airbus A320 series family.
The A320 series is much more popular for airlines in Europe than the 737.
Switching to an Airbus narrowbody fleet combined with the A330 widebody fleet would give Air Italy single manufacturer commonality between all of its aircraft as the airline has hinted at.