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Air Italy is the second largest commercial airline in Italy and was established in its current form in February 2018 when the original Air Italy merged with Meridiana.
The airline is probably best known (to readers of this blog) for being part-owned by Qatar Airways and for announcing aggressive expansion in a number of markets.
In 2018 the airline announced new routes to Bangkok, Delhi, Miami, Mumbai, Chicago and New York and, in early December last year, it also announced two new routes to California.
The expansion into the US drew serious (and highly hypocritical) fire from Delta but Air Italy’s expansion plans seemed to be going ahead as planned….until recently.
So far this month we’ve seen Air Italy appearing to back-pedal on a number of its routes and questions are starting to be asked.
In the first month of 2019 Air Italy has….
- Removed its planned summer service between Milan and Bangkok
- Reduced its planned Miami frequencies from 5x to 4x per week for 4 months between the end of April and the end of October.
- Closed reservations for its Milan – Delhi route for travel after 31 March 2019
- Closed reservations for its Milan – Mumbai route for travel after 21 February 2019
…and now the airline has closed reservations on a major route to/from the US before the route has even launched.
In mid-December Air Italy announced that it would be launching a new route between Milan and Chicago O’Hare from May 2019.
Air Italy was set to start operating the route 3x/week from 14 May on the following schedule….
IG913 MXP 11:30 – 16:25 ORD (Tue & Sat)
IG913 MXP 13:25 – 16:40 ORD (Thu)
IG914 ORD 18:25 – 10:30+1 MXP (Tue & Sat)
IG914 ORD 18:25 – 10:50+1 day MXP (Thu)
….but now this no longer appears to be happening.
Routes Online has reported that Air Italy has closed reservations for its planned service to Chicago and, if you check the Air Italy website, there is no option to select Chicago as a destination when searching for flights.
In fact, I can’t find any mention of Chicago anywhere on the Air Italy website.
It’s possible to explain away the reduced service to Miami by suggesting that the airline may have needed to redeploy an aircraft on another route and it’s possible to explain away the suspensions of the Asian routes by suggesting that the airline was testing the waters on routes that were by no means guaranteed winners….but how does one explain away the suspension of reservations to/from Chicago?
Air Italy has been making a lot of noise about its expansion into North America so I would suggest that it would take something quite serious to persuade the airline to suspend a US route before it has even got going.
Some of the questions that immediately spring to mind include…
- Were advanced sales on the Chicago route so poor that the airline decided it was no longer viable?
- Is the airline short of aircraft?
- Is the airline short of money?
At this point the most likely reason for the route suspension appears to be that advanced sales were looking particularly poor (I haven’t read anything that suggests Air Italy is having aircraft delivery issues and it seems a little early for Qatar Airways to curb the flow of cash into the airline) but then what does that suggest about the airline’s other planned North America routes?
A quick search reveals that no airline currently offers non-stop service between Milan and Chicago so if Air Italy can’t get good passenger loads on that route what chance does it have on routes where there’s actual competition?
Air Canada offers non-stop service between Milan and Toronto, American Airlines offers non-stop service between Milan and Miami and American, Delta and Emirates all offer non-stop service between Milan and New York.
How can Air Italy compete on those routes if it can’t make its Chicago route work?
I’m not an aviation expert nor do I have any inside information so clearly all I’m doing here is speculating….but its speculation based on a few undeniable facts.
Air Italy has shown some very real signs of pulling back recently but it’s the apparent retreat from the Chicago route that puzzles me most. Why suspend a route on which there is no competition?
Perhaps the route suspension is merely temporary and down to innocuous reasons that I haven’t considered but, whatever the reason, it doesn’t look good.
Airlines don’t tend to suspend routes for small, inconsequential reasons so something is clearly not right at Air Italy right now.
If the reason for the route suspension was nothing serious I would expect there to have been a press release to explain exactly what’s going on and to prevent speculation like this…..but Air Italy hasn’t released any comment.
Right now its wait-and-see time and I’m going to be watching Air Italy’s other routes very closely – if things aren’t going well then one or more of its other routes are sure to close in the coming weeks but, if no other suspensions transpire, then perhaps we can put this down to a simple case of poor loads on a single route that led to Air Italy cutting its losses.
It will be interesting to see what happens next.