MIAMI – ITA, whose first flight is slated to take place on October 15, is at the center of a new spate of competition between Airbus and Boeing for the supply of 81 jets. The newco expects to grow its new fleet to 105 aircraft by 2025.

According to the Italian newspaper Il Corriere Della Sera, usually well documented and informed on the ongoing Alitalia (AZ)-ITA saga, the new carrier, set to replace AZ as Italy’s flag carrier, is making its choice of aircraft to compose its fleet.

Although nothing official has yet been announced, the Italian newspaper has given some serious hints on the fleet composition, indicating 81 new aircraft for a value of US$5.3bn.

The newspaper also goes on to mention the competition that this substantial supply has sparked between Airbus, at the moment having the preferred role, and Boeing, which, on this matter, has not yet said its last word.

Alitalia Airbus A330-200 EI-EJI – Photo : Alberto Cucini/Airways

ITA Operations

Once operations are started, at first by using AZ aircraft on a wet-lease basis – AZ would only have the role of an ACMI (Aircraft Crew Maintenace Insurance)supplier role – ITA will start building up its fleet by leasing aircraft since the Airbus delivery agenda is closed up to 2025 with no availabilities. At present, the AZ fleet is composed of 19 A319, 43 A320/321, 11 A330, and 11 Boeing 777.

Airbus is now on the preferred shortlist since ITA is now steering toward a single supplier policy to streamline operations and maintenance taking into account that the initial ITA operations will be carried out mainly by using 52 AZ Airbus aircraft and flight crews, the latter being part of the “aviation sector” to be absorbed by the new carrier as agreed by the EU commission.

Airbus has not yet won the game as Boeing could come forward with a counter-proposal with aircraft – 737 MAX and 787 – at a discounted price, including maintenance for a certain time as well as crew training for the obtention of the new type rating. The new aircraft, whether Airbus or Boeing, should join the fleet by 2022 the AZ aircraft having to go thru compulsory heavy maintenance.

Alitalia Airbus A319-100 EI-IMN – Photo: Lorenzo Giacobbo/Airways

One setback that Boeing will have to face is the time and cost required to switch from Airbus aircraft to Boeing’s, both for pilots and maintenance, an aspect that will certainly weigh in the final decision to be taken by ITA. Moreover, whether ITA remains within Skyteam and connection to Delta Air Lines (DL), or moves towards Lufthansa (LH) and Star Alliance, an all-Airbus fleet would be an advantage in terms of synergies.

ITA will have to make a final decision within this year to start receiving the new aircraft by Q3 2021, considering the time required to prepare and configure the fleet.

The mix of aircraft of the Airbus family goes from the A220-300 to the A350 via the A330 but precise figures are at the moment not yet available.

Airbus and Boeing did not comment on the matter.