Meridiana Is Launching New Routes To The US With Qatar Airways Planes

Filed Under: Other Airlines, Qatar

This saga continues getting more interesting.

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 12 planes, consisting of 737s and 767s. It’s an outdated fleet, to put it mildly.

Meridiana’s outdated 767 business class

It took quite a while for Qatar Airways’ 49% stake in Meridiana to be finalized, as the deal only closed in late September. While some of Qatar Airways’ other airline investments are hands off, that’s not the plan with Meridiana. With Alitalia being in a bad financial stateQatar Airways is determined to “massively grow” Meridiana, and turn them into Italy’s “national airline.”

Qatar Airways’ CEO even wants to rename the airline Air Italy, so that it’s more obvious that they’re Italy’s national airline. The funny thing is that most Meridiana flights are already technically operated by an airline called “Air Italy.” In 2011 Meridiana Fly (as it was called back then) acquired Air Italy, and it’s now a wholly owned subsidiary of Meridiana. When I recently flew Meridiana business class from Naples to New York, the safety cards even said “Air Italy” on them.

Some Air Italy branding can already be found on Meridiana flights

Well, Meridiana has just announced their first new transatlantic route in quite a while, and it’s an interesting one.

Meridiana is adding flights from Milan to New York & Miami

Starting next summer, Meridiana will be adding two routes to the US out of Milan, per @airlineroute.

Specifically, as of June 8, 2018, Meridiana will launch 4x weekly flights between Milan and Miami, as follows:

IG903 Milan to Miami departing 1:00PM arriving 5:45PM
IG904 Miami to Milan departing 7:45PM arriving 11:10AM (+1 day)

Presently the airline only flies from Italy to New York, so this will be their second US gateway.

Furthermore, as of June 1, 2018, Meridiana will launch daily flights between Milan and New York, as follows:

IG901 Milan to New York departing 1:10PM arriving 4:00PM
IG902 New York to Milan departing 8:30PM arriving 10:35AM (+1 day)

What makes this interesting is that up until now Meridiana’s US flights have been out of Palermo and Naples. While those markets aren’t really a substitute for Milan or Rome, the intent was that they’d serve a different market that still had quite a bit of demand. For those going to the Amalfi Coast, for example, Naples was an ideal gateway.

Meridiana is canceling flights out of Naples and Palermo?!

Based on looking at the schedule, starting next summer I don’t see any Naples or Palermo to New York flights. I knew Meridiana wanted to grow, but are they really ditching their Naples and Palermo routes to New York altogether in order to start flights out of Milan?

I appreciated Meridiana’s unique value proposition, given that they were the only airline offering flights in this market. Meanwhile American, Delta, United, Alitalia, Emirates, and Meridiana will now all offer nonstop flights between Milan and New York, so that’s quite a crowded market.

This is a puzzling move for an airline that’s looking to grow.

These new flights will be operated by Qatar Airways A330s

This is the most exciting news. As we’ve known, Qatar Airways plans to send over some planes to Meridiana to help them grow. While not a 787, the plan is that these new routes will be operated by Qatar Airways A330-200s. This should represent a massive improvement in terms of the onboard product.

My hope is that they get Qatar Airways’ refurbished A330s, featuring fully flat beds in a 2-2-2 configuration. While it’s not the world’s best business class product, it’s a massive improvement over what Meridiana presently offers.

Qatar Airways’ A330 business class seats

However, I believe Qatar Airways still has some A330s with angled seats, so hopefully those aren’t the seats they get. Even if they do, it would still represent an improvement in terms of the onboard product.

Fortunately Meridiana’s soft product is delightful already, so this should be a pretty nice product.

Meridiana’s business class service

Bottom line

I’m excited to see Meridiana grow, though I’m sad to see them seemingly abandon their previous business model of serving markets that aren’t otherwise well served. They’re canceling service in two markets where they have a monopoly to jump into a market where they have a handful of competitors.

It’s also great to finally see Meridiana get an updated product. Then again, there was something I found charming about their old experience.

What do you make of Meridiana adding flights from Milan to New York & Miami?

  1. Something tells me Qatar’s going to give their unrefurbished A330s to Meridiana, which feature angled flat seats (still better than Meridiana’s current product, but nowhere near those A330s).

  2. they better up their hard product game then. It’s one thing to fly a mediocre seat to Naples since that’s a unique nonstop and many are willing to overlook such shortcomings in exchange for a nonstop, but out of MXP good products are a dime a dozen (and the chance of Norwegian announcing JFK-MXP in the next 12mos is reasonably high given their LAX-MXP)

  3. My take is that they are going after the business travelers ex-milano. There is a bit of a dogfight to get those travelers. Many in the North feel they are better served by taking a short hop to FRA and transferring there.

  4. Italian news sources say they’re A330s Qatar currently has in storage, so probably the old angled products. However, they’ve got a good five months til they enter into service, so in addition to (presumably) redoing the Meridiana branding and creating a new livery, they may well re-do the hard product inside.

  5. Milan is a better market for premium pax than Palermo or Naples. Still, Meridiana will have some tough contenders. I wish they would keep the flights from NY to south Italy.

  6. Using MXP as hub will alienate all the traffic from other northern airports in Italy. Very bad move. All the traffic from the northeast and northwest generally prefers to make a connection flight rather than using the car of the train to get to MXP.

    The airline’s hub is Olbia, which is a tourist destination. If they want to move to MXP, which makes sense as it is big enough to be a hub, they will need to reconfigure all the network of connecting flights. Plus, they need some intra-EU flights as well.

    Anyway, I really hope that some link to QR FF program will be made.

  7. As a small airline it’s going to be tough for them to make a dent with this plan. MXP isn’t a good airport for domestic/EU flights unless it’s low cost. And you already have Ryanair dominating the Italian market. So how much is their feeder service to MXP-JFK/MIA going to cost them to run? Didn’t they look at what happened to Alitalia when they pulled out after losing money trying to spool up MXP as a hub?

    I don’t see it working. They had a nice niche going for them with nonstops to Il Mezzogiorno and now they’re overturning the apple cart and hoping they get an entirely new base of customers. This is going to be another money pit for an ME3 investing in an Italian airline.

  8. The 19.2 press conference in a Milan Hotel for the presentation of Air Italy (not Meridiana brand anymore) programs as hub carrier based on Milan Malpensa airport, Al Baker is attended.
    New Jork KFK and Miami are the only first intercontinental destination, from June fider fly from Rome, Lametia Teme, Olbia, Napoli and Palermo are activated (and many other Italian and continental destination during the next 3 years).
    We need to remember that one of the reason of the continue default of Alitalia is the fact to try to create an hub in Rome, destination good fo tourist but not for business pax and cargo, in the y2017 MXP increase +14% instead the decrease of FCO and LIN where they concentrate the operation with the disaster that we know.
    Next steps the admission of Air Italy in OneWorld and code share with airline partners, interline between the 5 national destinations on MXP are just active with different airlines that operate on MXP as Emirates to NY or Thay to Bangkok.
    The headquarters of Air Italy (IG code will remain) is Milan and not Olbia anymore of course.
    All airplane are just based only on MXP airport and all charter activities are going to be closed during this year.
    All fly on Linate airport are closed by one month except the 3 daily fly to Olbia.
    This years are attended 5 A332 and the first B737 Max 8 and starting next year the first B787.
    The current B737 and B767 will not receive any upgrade and new branding.
    Also the national fly operated on MXP will have business class.
    Also Cairo, Lagos,Accra and Mombasa will get some adjustment in order to coordinate transit also for Havana, Moscow and Shenzhen destinations.
    Today on the milanese national newspaper articles with many details concerning Qatar Airways and Air Italy.

  9. Very disappointing. I have no idea why anyone could complain about the old style seats etc. Do you all fly first class? There’s no comfortable seat on newer planes. This is the defegjlation trend towards consolidation and forcing prices up. Sad day..

  10. What about onboard entertainment? On long flights (Miami to Milan), will there be on-seat TV’s? I read Meridiana did not. How awful.

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