Air Italy was an early casualty of the pandemic. But a new report suggests that Air Italy could be resurrected under new investors, this time with a primary fleet of Russian-made passenger jets.
Investor Wants To Restart Air Italy With Russian, Airbus Jets
In February 2020, Qatar Airways and the Aga Khan Group decided to pull the plug on Air Italy. Perceiving that demand was about to crater, the airline shut down operations, refunded tickets, fired staff, and liquidated its fleet.
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Oleg Evdokimov is CEO of ATEO group. That includes Florida-based Ateo Air, which is interested in taking over Air Italy’s operating certificate (as well as the brand) and resuming regional and longhaul service using a mix of Sukhoi SuperJets and Airbus A321LR/XLR.
Evdokimov sat down with Aviation Source to explain his intentions. He calls himself the “Godfather” of Air Italy, explaining that he told Qatar Airways what to do in June 2017 and His Excellency Akbar Al Baker took his advice and created Air Italy as a new profit center without the political pitfalls of Fifth Freedom flights between Italy and the United States operated by Qatar Airways.
But weak transatlantic yield and the grounding of the 737MAX plagued the airline (among other issues…but this is what Evdokimov blames the issue on).
In a nod to Air Italy’s displaced staff, Evdokimov said:
Competent, well-trained, and highly motivated staff is one of the key factors for the company’s success. We highly value the Air Italy staff, their dedication to their business, and their company. The plan to restart the company involves the use of several dozen aircraft and a wide route network both in Italy and abroad. Accordingly, there will be a need for appropriate personnel and obviously the Air Italy’s employees will be the first and the best choice.
Will this time be any different? Evdokimov says the key will be load factors and using smaller Russian jets and the Airbus A321 to offer more nimble operations than the 737 MAX and Airbus A330 previously used. The SSJ-100 would have between 93-98 seats onboard, perfect for what Evdokimov sees as a revived domestic market.
The new carrier would be based in Olbia (OLB), a coastal city located in in northeast Sardinia. Initial destinations would include:
- Dublin (DUB)
- Helsinki (HEL)
- Oslo (OSL)
- Reykjavik (REK)
- Tel Aviv (TLV)
As for whether Air Italy will ever get off the ground again, I’ll say two things: I hope so, but I doubt it. Evdokimov has floated the same idea (restart operations with Russian jets he cannot seem to get rid of) at Adria Airways, the defunct flag carrier of Slovenia.
The pandemic has taken a particularly harsh toll on the European aviation market and budget carriers like Wizz Air, Ryanair, and EasyJet will be competing had for new service in Italy as demand revives.
Air Italy, whomever the investor, faces a treacherous uphill battle.
image: Simone Previdi