MIAMI — Air Italy continues its rapid expansion by adding an all-new route to Toronto (YYZ) from its hub in Milan-Malpensa (MXP), following last week’s announcement of Los Angeles (LAX) and San Francisco (SFO).

Toronto will become the airline’s fifth North American route on May 6, 2019, complementing New York (JFK), Miami (MIA) and the two Californian cities.

The new route will be the airline’s inaugural presence in Canada, initially operated four times per week, on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays, and Sundays.

The airline’s COO, Rossen Dimitrov, said that “Toronto is an extremely welcome addition to the Air Italy route map and clearly reflects the importance of the North American market to us. There is enormous potential in extending our reach to Canada, thanks to its economic relevance and strong global relations.”

Dimitrov, a Toronto-born airline executive, noted that his city is a “cosmopolitan and multicultural destination,” as well as “one of the most important centers for trade and investments.”

“Our new route demonstrates our determination to continue our expansion with many exciting new destinations to attract visitors to Italy and to enable them to connect onwards, as well as providing our Italian customers with an ever-expanding array of exciting new destinations to visit, all while being treated to our superb hospitality and great on board Air Italy experience,” he concluded.

The new route to Canada follows the recent introduction of flights to Mumbai (BOM) and Delhi (DEL) last week. These two, in addition of Bangkok (BKK), round up the airline’s long-haul network to eight destinations—a tremendous expansion since Air Italy’s inaugural flight to New York last June.

The Toronto flights will arrive in Milan ahead of the departure of both BOM and DEL flights, providing connectivity to India and to Air Italy’s broad domestic network.

Political Headwinds

The Italian carrier’s rapid expansion into North American territory has caused some political consternation in the United States, with Senators and airline officials (from Delta, United, and American Airlines) claiming that Air Italy has undermined 5th Freedom Rights by accepting subsidies from the government of Qatar.

To these allegations, Dimitrov noted that he finds the U.S. carriers “very entertaining,” as Air Italy is “registered in Italy and not subsidized by Qatar Airways, who are minority stakeholders.”

Back in June, Air Italy’s President, Marco Rigotti, told Airways that “Qatar Airways doesn’t have a direct influence over our operations,” he said. “We are truly independent and will even compete against them [QR] in some routes.”

Air Italy COO, Rossen Dimitrov

Dimitrov added that the only direct relationship with Qatar Airways is through its leasing company, which has provided aircraft at market competitive rates.

A group of US senators sent a letter to the US Secretary of Transportation, Elaine Chao, stating that the Qatari Government had violated its Open Skies agreement with the US through its investment in the Italian carrier.

“Air Italy’s entry into this crowded market appears consistent with Qatar Airways pattern of adding subsidized capacity in markets where demand is already well served,” said the letter.

However, Dimitrov has dismissed these allegations and the carrier will be inaugurating two new routes to the US and one to Canada right before the launch of next year’s summer season.

The airline plans to operate its five Airbus A330-200s on these routes. However, the arrival of the first batch of Boeing 787 Dreamliners is still to be confirmed.