Reported by Bernie Leighton &, Written by James Field & Photos by Royal S. King
SEATTLE – Air Italy and Boeing celebrated a milestone in their relationship on May 11th with the Italian carrier receiving their first 737MAX8 aircraft.
CEO HE Mr Akbar Al Baker of Qatar Airways, which owns a 49% stake in the carrier, was at the event alongside some other officials to receive the keys to the first aircraft.
Al Baker has been a huge part of the airline and its development through the investments they have made. Airways has an inside look.
Al Baker highlighted that he is indeed a difficult customer to Boeing, but is happy with the fact that they are always up to deal with the demands that he presents to them.
He linked Boeing to “happy memories”, which must highlight the significance of his relationship with the Seattle-based manufacturer.
He also expressed how happy he was to being back at Everett. Al Baker continued on saying that they are offering a new kind of airline, something that is a credible alternative for the people of Italy, providing the best standards and high quality through their premium products.
He also added that the airline is to receive 20 737MAXs over three years, with eight being delivered this year.
Air Italy is not used to taking so many aircraft in six months so Qatar Airways will provide five 787-8s on lease to the carrier while the fleet grows sustainably and significantly.
Al Baker also maintained his full commitment to the airline and also to Boeing by saying the carrier will be all-Boeing.
When asked about the Qatar Airways strategy in relation to Etihad’s foreign investment strategy, Al Baker said: “let’s not talk about failures”.
He added that “Qatar Airways by the grace of God had always been successful” and that “they are in the exclusive club of five-star airlines”.
He also went on about the investment in IAG, Cathay Pacific.
Furthermore, he added that Air Italy is a carrier owned by Italians with the Qatari’s bringing in their expertise on operations. In a surprising comment, Al Baker said Air Italy will never fly to Doha as he wans to create jobs for the Italian people.
He also mentioned some information about profit sharing saying that 20% of the net profit will be given back to the people that are involved in the airline.
He finalized by saying: “May this be a great airline for Italy”. This shows that Al Baker is not talking about profit but his priority is to establish this airline as a major airline in Italy, whilst citing that they are not a charity at the same time.
The CEO admitted that make money in the short-term but will be profitable in the long-term and highly successful. Al Baker said that they do not take failure easily.
Boeing’s Ihssan Munir thanked Air Italy for their commitment to the 737MAX program. He added that Air Italy will have a very modern environment on the inside.
He has compared the launch of Air Italy’s 737MAX relationship to that of Qatar Airways’ launch into Boeing’s relationship back in 1997.
Air Italy is bringing “the Italian style along with Qatar style,” he said at the press conference.
The floor then switched to Marco Rigatti, who represented Alisarda, the other owner of Air Italy.
He said that the group is committed to pursuing excellence and that the MAX8 will provide a new travel experience, tailored to the needs of their fliers.
All domestic flights will offer a journey in the true Italian style. He also went on to say how they want their passengers to sense the beauty of Italy.
In terms of competition, he said that he wants to lead the market around Italy and beyond.
He wants to make the carrier one of the most recognised airline brands in Europe, seeing the enormous international potential that the carrier can achieve.
Francesco Violante, the chairman of Air Italy, said that he selected the 737MAX because it is a modern and fuel-efficient aircraft.
He added that he wants a distinguished level of service on offer to his passengers and placed an emphasis on Italy becoming a global hub.
With America being a key part of their strategy, he said more destinations will come as their fleet expands.
The press conference concluded and the media were given a look around the aircraft.
Photos – By Bernie Leighton and Royal S King
1 on 1 with “The Chief”
Airways got an exclusive one to one with the CEO of Qatar Airways Akbar Al Baker. Here is what he had to say about Air Italy and all things Qatar!:
Q: First off, if I may, I would like to ask you about how Europe is a challenging market for high-quality carriers and how Air Italy can meet the needs of the market.
A: As a matter of fact, carriers are looking for high-quality carriers but are in fact paying high fares to airlines that are not providing them with the quality experience. So we want to provide that quality experience through Qatar Airways and Air Italy.
Q: How does the investment in Air Italy fit in with the investments of IAG?
A: IAG has high-quality airlines such as BA, Iberia and Aer Lingus. We are in the same business. Vueling is a low-cost carrier aimed at those who do not mind paying for the low quality. Our investments in IAG and others mean that we have airlines that provide all levels of service possible to fliers. We want to establish ourselves as a quality Italian carrier that can provide for all areas of customer-base.
Q: How is the A350-1000 going in service for Qatar Airways?
A: We were pleasantly surprised by critics saying that we were going to face problems with the Rolls Royce engines. However, the aircraft is performing very well and we, fingers crossed are hoping that no problems will arise.
Q:Looking at future orders of aircraft, is either Air Italy or Qatar Airways interested in investing in Boeing’s NMA (Near Middle-Market Aircraft) project that they will be unveiling over the next few years?
A: No, we haven’t talked to Boeing about it and have currently no interest in it. We already have the types of aircraft needed to cater to our business plan. Once the NMA is launched by Boeing, we will consider it because we have to keep in mind that if Boeing launches an NMA, then Airbus will launch an NMA. We have to see which manufacturer will give the right product to us.
Q:Finally, with respect to Air Italy and their key international markets, where do you see them expanding beyond their current destinations?
A: I am not prepared to answer that for the reason that I want to give the competition a heads up.
This moment carried some significance as a massive achievement for Al Baker and everyone at Air Italy. This is the start of what will be an intensive investment programme from Qatar Airways, as they seek to expand on the premium-market across Europe and the rest of the West. It shows that even in the midst of adversities of political blockades, that they still seek to make the investments and growth plans that they need to continue their success story.
For now, the main focus seems to be rapid growth. With the airline receiving over a dozen of the aircraft type over three years, they will be seeking to expand onwards as rapidly as possible, which will align with the growth strategy Al Baker has currently with Qatar Airways. For the strategy Al Baker wants to pursue with Air Italy, it will for sure send a stark message out to the industry across Europe and the West.