Air Italy plans a modest increase in its number of long-haul Airbus A330s, rather than taking on Boeing 787-8s, because of delays in delivering new aircraft to its minority shareholder, Qatar Airways.

Qatar Airways has a 49% stake in Air Italy and has been infusing the Sardinia-based company with Airbus A330-200s from its own fleet, replacing elderly Boeing 767-300ERs. The A330-200s were, in turn, scheduled to be replaced by Boeing 787-8s from Qatar Airways’ fleet as the Arab carrier took newer 787-9s on charge.

However, delays to the arrival of the 787-9s mean these plans have changed.

“As we have stated before, Qatar Airways’ Boeing 787-9s are delayed, which means we cannot for the moment take delivery of our leased Boeing 787-8 aircraft from Qatar Airways Group,” an Air Italy spokesperson said May 14.

“As a result, it makes more sense at this time to grow our A330 fleet due to existing operational synergies and cost efficiencies, due to the commonality across pilots, engineering and crew.”

Air Italy’s fleet consists of five A330-200s, seven Boeing 737-800s and three 737 MAX 8s—which are non-operational because of the worldwide grounding of the variant after crashes of Lion Air and Ethiopian Airlines MAXs.

With Qatar Airways’ backing, Air Italy’s fleet was scheduled to grow to more than 50 aircraft by 2022 and it had been thought that 787s would make up a significant proportion of the fleet. However, the Air Italy spokesman said that no number of 787s had previously been specified. Likewise, the initial deliveries of 787-8s to Air Italy, previously said to have been mid-2019, had always been “subject to growth, with a definitive date not being specified.”

Instead, two more A330s would arrive from Qatar Airways Group within the next 12 months, he said.

As for the short-haul fleet, Air Italy COO Rossen Dimitrov told Aviation Analyst website earlier in May that, as a result of the 737 MAX groundings, Air Italy is “evaluating our network and fleet, and we’ve reviewed our fleet plan very recently in light of the 737 MAX groundings.”

While making no commitments, he said that Air Italy would be a more streamlined operation if it was all-Airbus “and it’s something we are exploring as an option.”

The Air Italy spokesperson told ATW that “We have never said that we would move to any specific aircraft. Given the overall situation at the moment, Air Italy is considering all options. We have this flexibility due to the fact that we have leased aircraft. And of course we need to see what the future will be, given the situation with the MAX.”

Alan Dron