Meridiana has a long history. Headquartered in Olbia, the company was established under the name of Alisarda on 29 March 1963, with the aim of promoting tourism to the island of Sardinia. In 1991 the name was changed to Meridiana. Following a merger with charter carrier Eurofly and the acquisition of the charter company Air Italy, the airline became the most important Italian player in international leisure flights.
After the 49% acquisition of Meridiana by Qatar Airways – in December 2017 – it was announced that their growth would be focused towards new domestic, medium-haul and long haul destinations from Milan Malpensa. This represented a major strategic shift for the airline – as previously it focused on leisure flights and niche routes (such as their famous Naples & Palermo to New York operations). Furthermore, in February of this year, a new corporate identity was presented and the company was rebranded as Air Italy.
Today, aviation history was made. Air Italy was born – under the historic Meridiana “IG” flight code. The first long haul flight of the new airline, IG3254, departed this morning at 2am from Milan Malpensa airport to Zanzibar, while the first domestic flight – IG1111 – from Olbia to Rome Fiumicino left the Costa Smeralda airport at 7am.
The integration of the operating structures of the two carriers in the new Air Italy will deliver a better and more efficient organisation focused on two main bases; Olbia for short-haul flights and Milan Malpensa for international and intercontinental flights. The current fleet of B737 and B767 aircraft will maintain the Meridiana livery until they are phased out, while from next spring 3 Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 5 Airbus A330-200 will join the fleet with the new Air Italy livery.
Unfortunately, with every new development in this industry, their is always a farewell. Recently we’ve waved goodbye to KLM’s Fokker fleet, United’s 747 and many more. Coinciding with the launch of the new Air Italy, came the exit of I-SMER, the last of the 18 MD80 aircraft, that for over 30 years, formed the backbone of Meridiana’s fleet. Airport and airline employees waved off the MD80 from Olbia earlier this week in an emotional farewell – not just to the aircraft, but also to the much-loved and quintessentially Italian Meridiana brand.
Despite the sad farewell to Meridiana, Air Italy has big plans. Beginning from May 2018, Air Italy will add new domestic routes from Milan to Rome, Naples, Palermo, Catania, Lamezia Terme scheduled for connection to its newest long-range destinations including New York, Miami and Bangkok (starting in September 2018). Its network also includes direct international flights from Milan Malpensa to Accra, Cairo, Dakar, Havana, Lagos, Mombasa, Moscow, Zanzibar and, from its Olbia hub, year-round scheduled services to Rome, Milan Linate and seasonal ones to a wide range of domestic and regional destinations.
Flights on Air Italy can now be purchased here.
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