Italian airline Meridiana will rename the carrier 'Air Italy' and aims to grow its fleet and passenger numbers fourfold by 2022 in a bid to become the country's national carrier, executives said on Monday.Meridiana was put under new ownership last year after Qatar Airways bought a 49% stake in AQA Holding, the Sardinia-based carrier's new parent, with previous sole owner Alisarda retaining 51%.
The airline will make Milan's Malpensa airport its new hub.
Air Italy is Italy's second-largest airline behind Alitalia, which was put under administration last year after workers rejected a plan to cut jobs and salaries.
However, with a new restructuring plan - that includes the launch of new domestic and intercontinental routes - Air Italy aims to become Italy's "airline of reference", Reuters reported.
By 2022, the carrier expects "to transport 10mn passengers a year and have a fleet of 50 aircraft," Chairman Francesco Violante said at the launch of the new brand in Milan.
Over the next three years, 20 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will be added to Air Italy's fleet, the first of which arrives in April.
Qatar Airways will lease five of its Airbus A330-200 to Air Italy "at market prices", Reuters quoted Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive Akbar al-Baker as having said.
“No details of planned investments were disclosed,” Reuters said.
Air Italy will fly out of Malpensa's main terminal, said Pietro Modiano, chairman of SEA, the company that manages the airport.
Air Italy will benefit from Meridiana’s extensive network, which connects the main Italian airports with Sardinia and provides connectivity with hubs in Europe, as well as in the US and Africa.
It will be powered by AQA Holding, in which Qatar Airways has a 49% stake.
Qatar Airways, the national carrier of the State of Qatar, is the world’s fastest-growing airline, flying passengers to an extensive network of more than 150 global destinations on board its modern fleet in excess of 200 aircraft.