MIAMI — The first-ever Boeing 737 MAX 8 delivered to an Italian carrier has finally arrived at Air Italy’s new operational base in Milan-Malpensa (MXP).
Following a 12-hour delivery journey from Paine Field (PAE), the plane flew non-stop to Shannon (SNN), Ireland for a refueling stop, before completing the trip with a two-hour, twenty-minute hop to Milan.
Flight Meridiana 2060 departed PAE at 13:25 local time, crossing Canadian airspace before entering central Greenland, southern Iceland, and reaching the Northern Irish coastline for its scheduled stop in SNN at 06:40 the following morning.
The aircraft was officially delivered at Boeing’s Delivery Center in Paine Field Airport (PAE) Everett, Washington on May 11, at an event where Qatar Airways Group Chief Executive, His Excellency, Mr. Akbar Al Baker, granted Airways a one-on-one interview revealing his thoughts on his new Italian venture.
This Boeing 737 MAX 8 for Air Italy is the first of a batch of 50 brand-new Boeing jets that will be changing the landscape of the Italian airline industry in the upcoming years.
The plane comes fitted with spacious, modern cabins, including a Business Class that will differentiate themselves from its competitors in the European marketplace.
According to Al Baker, the 20 new 737 MAX 8s will replace the current 737NGs that the airline currently operates. New planes will join the fleet through 2022, guaranteeing continuous growth.
Onboard the delivery flight were Al Baker with the Chairman of Alisarda and AQA Holding, Mr. Marco Rigotti; Director of Aga Khan Fund for Economic Development (AKFED) and AQA Holding Board Member, Mr. Sultan Allana; and Chairman of Air Italy, Mr. Francesco Violante.
Upon landing in Milan, the plane was greeted with the traditional water cannon salute, followed by a ceremony in which Al Baker cut the ribbon to mark the start of his new Italian venture.
During the press conference, the airline’s executives highlighted the importance of this first delivery, which will mark the pace for the upcoming five years.
“It is truly a remarkable moment to be witnessing the launch of a new era in Italian aviation,” declared Al Baker.
“The touchdown of Air Italy’s first Boeing B737 Max in new livery at Milan marks the beginning of a new travel experience for the people of Italy,” he added.
Al Baker admitted to being delighted to be supporting his newest investment by leasing five Airbus A330-200s from his Qatar Airways fleet.
These five wide-body planes will launch the airline’s long-haul network, which will eventually be boosted by the arrival of the first Boeing 787-8 Dreamliners that Qatar Airways has ordered for them. According to Air Italy, the first 787-8 should be delivered by May 2019.
Already announced, the carrier plans to launch long-haul flights from Milan to New York (JFK), Miami (MIA), Bangkok (BKK), and Mumbai (BOM).
From Rome, however, the airline plans to launch long-haul flights in May 2019, presumably when the first Dreamliner joins the fleet.
The first Boeing 737 MAX 8 routes will likely be domestic and regional services. Air Italy has announced that connecting flights from Milan to Rome, Naples, Palermo, and Olbia will be launched immediately. Moreover, flights to Catania and Lamezia Terme will be launched in July and September.
CABIN, NEW UNIFORMS UNVEILED
During the ceremony, not only the plane was shown to a large group of Italian and International media; the new Air Italy uniforms were unveiled as well.
— Qatar Airways (@qatarairways) May 14, 2018
Too similar to the Qatar Airways design, the new uniforms feature the traditional stewardess hat and equally cut jackets/skirts.
Several Twitter users have criticized the airline’s choice to mimic Qatar Airways’ design, fading away from the Italian personality that the airline’s name evokes. However, it remains to be seen whether the long-haul, premium cabin product will be seen as all-new, leaving a question mark on whether the carrier will aim to deliver a unique product or just copy the already successful Qatar Airways lead.
The cabin of the first 737 MAX 8 features the typical 3-3 layout with seats dressed in different dark colors. Up front, Business Class seats offer 33 inches of pitch.
Each seat comes equipped with a tablet-ready holder, as demonstrated by Italian journalist Leonard Berberi in his post.
— Leonard Berberi (@leonard_berberi) May 13, 2018
Another curious feature fitted in the airplane’s galley is an espresso coffee machine, “a must” as posted by some Italian journalists.
It hasn’t been disclosed by the airline when the first 737 MAX 8 revenue flight will occur. Airways is standing by for confirmation by the airline.
Likewise, the first Airbus A330’s arrival to the airline’s base hasn’t been confirmed by Qatar Airways or Air Italy.