Meridiana to pursue growth, rebrand as Air Italy; Meridiana has previously been shrinking

On 7-Nov-2017 Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker told the CAPA Asia Aviation Summit that Meridiana would be rebranded after its subsidiary Air Italy and aim to become "the flag carrier of Italy". He predicted robust growth for Meridiana, after an extended period of contraction. An important first step will be to secure the appointment of a new CEO for Meridiana.

Qatar Airways' acquisition of 49% of Meridiana was approved by the European Commission in Mar-2017, and the acquisition was confirmed in Sep-2017. A 51% majority stake remains in the hands of the former sole owner, Alisarda.

A new business plan for Meridiana is under preparation, but Qatar Airways expects to improve the airline's competitiveness and expand its network, both in Europe and beyond. The two airlines first announced a potential partnership in Feb-2016.

Originally seen as mainly motivated by improving ties between the State of Qatar and Sardinia, where Meridiana is based and where Qatar has a number of investments, Qatar Airways' move looks potentially more interesting after the bankruptcy of Alitalia. However, Etihad's ultimately unsuccessful investment in Alitalia also serves as a warning that Gulf airline equity partnerships in Italy can bring challenges too.

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