Alitalia took over the passenger transport activity from Wind Jet as per an agreement reached on 13-Apr-2012 following approval from the carrier's board, as reported by local media sources including AGI, World Aeronautical Press Agency, Avionews and Il Messaggero. With the transaction, previously announced in Jan-2012, Alitalia Group "aims at gathering the specific know-how developed by Wind Jet in the low-cost flights sector, thus completing and enriching its range of products and competences. This will allow Alitalia to further diversify its offer, similarly to what has been done with the Air One project, namely to have a wider range of Italian, quality low-cost flights. The operation - which is consistent with the ones recently announced by other European airlines and aims at strengthening our activity in the low cost flight segment - is subject to the success of a series of regulation and market conditions set out in the contract," the carrier said. WindJet reportedly has debts of around EUR100 million. A similar agreement with Blue Panorama has not been approved.
Integration of Wind Jet operations with Alitalia receives board approval
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Qatar Airways & Italy's Meridiana Part 1: Similar to Etihad-Alitalia, but different - and smaller
On 04-Feb-2016, Qatar Airways and Italian leisure airline Meridiana disclosed that they are working on a "potential partnership project" that could include a minority equity stake of up to 49% in Meridiana and a commercial partnership. Understandably, this immediately drew a comparison with Etihad Airways' investing in Alitalia and the two forming a partnership.
The comparison probably ends there. Although both cases feature a Gulf airline investing in an Italian airline, the motivations are different. The potential gains between Qatar and Meridiana are far smaller than between Etihad and Alitalia, largely a result of Meridiana being so small: it is the fourth largest airline in the Italian domestic market but with only a 6% share. Internationally, it is the 22nd largest in winter. Qatar will not be required to input as much work into Meridiana as Etihad into Alitalia. Meridiana, however, is no walk in the park: it has not reported financial results since its losses for 2013, but it has been restructuring for some years.
Western Europe-Iran: opportunity in under-developed market, but Turkish Airlines already has a niche
Iran accounts for just 5% of Western Europe-Middle East seats, yet it accounts for 24% of the Middle East population. Air travel between Western Europe and Iran fell annually until 2013, since when growth has returned. Nevertheless, it remains under-developed and the thawing of relations with Iran should provide a significant opportunity.
Preliminary 2016 data from OAG indicate that Iran Air's 36% of seats in this market will keep it above Lufthansa's 27%. However, growth by Lufthansa and Austrian, together with the entry of Eurowings, will rank the Lufthansa group ahead with 46%. The other Iranian airline in this market, Mahan Air, is also set to grow rapidly in summer 2016. From the Western European side, the only other operators are Alitalia and Germania.
The potential for the Western Europeans is clear, although it will take time for demand to evolve to levels that are more consistent with the size of Iran's population (second only to Egypt in the Middle East). Moreover, Turkish Airlines has a widespread presence both in Iran and Western Europe and already offers strong competition in the form of one stop services through Istanbul.