Meridiana To Become Italy’s “Real” National Carrier, According To Qatar Airways

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Qatar

A bit over two years ago, Qatar Airways announced their intentions to invest in Meridiana, Italy’s second largest airline (which isn’t saying a whole lot). The airline has a fleet of just 16 planes, consisting of 737s, 767s, and MD-80s. It’s an outdated fleet, to put it mildly.

Meridiana 767

It took quite a while for Qatar Airways’ investment in Meridiana to actually be finalized. It’s just in the past week that Qatar purchased a 49% stake in Meridiana. There’s something a bit funny about a Gulf carrier investing in an Italian airline around the same time that another Italian airline that was financially supported by another Gulf carrier is on the verge of liquidation.

Alitalia 777

Well, it looks like Qatar Airways wants to take advantage of Italy’s current aviation situation, and turn Meridiana into Italy’s “real” national carrier. Qatar Airways plans to massively grow Meridiana, and over the next six months have them take delivery of 787s or A330s, plus 737 MAX aircraft. Per Reuters:

Qatar Airways will “massively grow” the Italian airline, including a relaunch with new aircraft and new branding and an expansion of its European and international network, Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker told Reuters in Doha.

Meridiana, Italy’s second biggest airline, will “over the next six months” start taking delivery of widebody Boeing 787s or Airbus A330s, and narrowbody Boeing 737 MAXs ordered by Qatar Airways, he said.

While that sounds nice, personally I wouldn’t yet take this as fact. Al-Baker is notorious for making big claims and then not following through on them, so I wouldn’t yet count this as a sure thing.

Qatar 787

Apparently Qatar Airways also came in and negotiated the contract terms for many Meridiana employees, which is sort of funny, since it’s probably the first time Al-Baker has had to deal with any sort of unions:

Contract terms for Meridiana employees, including salaries, benefits and working hours, were renegotiated as a condition of the deal, al-Baker said. He did not say how those terms had changed, but said the changes followed a “a very frank talk with the unions,” which had been “very accommodating.”

“They 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,” al-Baker said.

It will certainly be interesting to see how this develops. Up until now Alitalia and Meridiana have operated very different route networks, with Meridiana focusing on leisure destinations. For example, Meridiana flies to New York from Naples and Palermo, while Alitalia flies to New York from Rome and Milan. So I’ll be curious to see if Meridiana soon tries to start service in a lot of markets being served by Alitalia.

On one hand Meridiana has a real opportunity here. While ultra low cost carriers will likely swarm the regional Italian market, Italy may not have a real longhaul airline, and there’s still a lot of demand for longhaul travel to Italy. On the other hand, there’s a reason Alitalia didn’t succeed, and Meridiana better be careful not to make the same mistakes.

What do you make of Qatar’s plan to hugely expand Meridiana and make them Italy’s “real” national carrier?

  1. What are the chances Meridiana will be part of OW down the road? Especially with the loss of Air Berlin…

  2. Where’s all this capital coming from? Owning a stake in such a small airline doesn’t seem all that profitable and it’s not like Qatar’s (the country and the airline…?) current situation is helping things out at all from a financial perspective. That’s a lot of new planes and new people to come from seemingly nowhere and in a VERY short period of time.

    On the other hand, it would be awesome to see Alitalia either emerge as a much better airline (so highly improbable that it hurts to think about it) or to actually see Meridiana fill the long-haul void to/from Italy left by Alitalia.

  3. I have no reason to doubt good intentions from everyone, including Al baker. As an Italian I do pray they will succeed. But again as an Italian I also remember that no airline has ever survived in Italy except for Alitalia because of government funds and only because of that. Airline cant easily survive in Italy. That’s a sad fact.

  4. Meridiana does not only serve “leisure” routes. Their “bread&butter” routes are to/from sardinia (there home is olbia), which obviously is a holiday destination, but a lot of people live there. And since it is an island, the quickest way to get anywhere within the rest of Italy is to fly. And Meridiana offers non-stop service to quite some Italian cities from Sardinia.I dont know if they make money, but they seem to fill their planes on those routes.

  5. 10 years from now, I can’t see Meridiana being too much more well-known than it is now. I just can’t see Qatar being able to turn around an airline like Meridiana.

  6. Qatar Airways will most likely send a lot of their smaller aircraft to Meridiana since most of them are grounded due to the dispute with Saudi Arabia, UAE and Egypt.

  7. still baffles me how AliItalia went bankrupt…Italy is one of the top tourist destinations in the world, shouldnt a ton of $$$ flow in?

  8. @Chris, for now Qatar Air isn’t allowed in the United Arab Republic, so no Dubai fares until that dispute is resolved.

  9. Not to make the same mistake? Like when you walk up to an Alitalia Club entrance employee in Rome, who is filing her fingernails, who looks up, and continue working on her nails?

Leave a Reply

If you'd like to participate in the discussion, please adhere to our commenting guidelines. Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *