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Air Italy expands as UAE-backed Alitalia goes bankrupt

Italian airline carrier Meridiana changed its name to Air Italy with the backing of its new shareholder, Qatar Airways.

Italy's Meridiana

Italian airline Meridiana changed its name to Air Italy on Monday with the backing of Qatar Airways, its new shareholder, aiming to become Italy's flagship carrier as UAE-backed Alitalia undergoes bankruptcy proceedings.

Air Italy was put under new ownership last year after Qatar Airways bought a 49 percent stake in AQA Holding, with the previous owner Alisarda retaining 51 percent.

It is now the country's second-largest airline behind Alitalia, which was mainly backed by Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways.

However, the carrier started bankruptcy proceedings last year for the second time in a decade, after saying it will no longer invest in the faltering airline. 

Air Italy's new restructuring plan aims to make it Italy's "airline of reference", said Qatar Airways' CEO Akbar al-Baker.

"We will show that we are the star," said al-Baker, presenting the airline's development plans in Italy.

Over the next three years, 20 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft will be added to Air Italy's fleet, the first of which arrives in April.

Qatar Airways will lease five of its Airbus A330-200 aircraft to Air Italy "at market prices", al-Baker said.

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