MILAN (AP) — Regional carrier Air Italy said Tuesday it will cease operations and go into liquidation after shareholders opted against putting more money into the company to keep it afloat.
The move follows two years of losses during which the airline sought to transform itself from being a summer holiday carrier called Meridiana into a national carrier with flights across Europe.
When Air Italia was launched two years ago, Alisarda, the Aga Khan’s Sardinia-based holding company, had a 51%-stake and Qatar Airways took 49%.
Qatar Airways said in a statement that it would have been willing to continue its support of the airline ‘’but this would have only been possible with the commitment of all shareholders.”
Italy’s transport minister, Paola De Micheli, said ‘’the decision to liquidate a company of such a size without informing the government first and without seriously evaluating other alternatives is unacceptable.”
Unions put the number of jobs at the airline at 1,500. The company operated some 30 domestic, European and intercontinental routes.
Industry analyst Gregory Alegi said that the plans to transform the regional carrier failed despite Qatar Airways’ expertise and deep pockets.
The Italian government failed to support them in getting lucrative trans-Atlantic routes probably because they did not want to hurt national carrier Alitalia’s hopes of recovering from financial trouble, Alegi said.
Air Italy also was in the process of a fleet change from Airbus to Boeing, and lost another year of growth with production suspended of the Boeing 737 Max, he said.
Air Italy said in a statement that all Air Italy flights through Feb. 25 would be operated by other carriers as previously scheduled, while passengers with flights after that date would be rebooked on other airlines or refunded.