Air Italy
An airplane is pictured on a strip of graphene-enhanced tarmac that is being trialed on Fiumicino Airport's Alpha Alpha runway, in Rome (Photo: Reuters / Guglielmo Mangiapane)

Privately owned Italian airline, Air Italy, has officially closed up shop. Reports have revealed that the airline has suspended all operations following a decision made by its owners to liquidate the company. The sudden shutdown has left those who have pre-booked flights with the airline in a peculiar predicament as they would now have to find other airlines to get to their destinations.

Air Italy, or Alitalia, is the country's second-biggest airline. On Tuesday, the company announced that the decision to shut down and liquidate was made after a shareholder's meeting. Around 51 percent of the company is controlled by Alisarda, a company founded by Aga Khan, while the rest of the 49 percent stake is owned by Qatar Airways.

Following the announcement, Qatar Airways released its own statement indicating its willingness to invest further in the airline to keep it afloat. The company stated that despite the increasingly competitive environment and difficult market conditions, as a minority shareholder, Qatar Airways was still willing to continue its investments in Air Italy.

Qatar Airways ended the statement by saying that despite its willingness to support Air Italy's growth, it would be impossible to achieve that goal without the commitment of all shareholders.

To address concerns raised by those who have already pre-booked flights with the airline, Air Italy officials stated that all flights from Tuesday until February 25 have been transferred to other carriers. Meanwhile, all flights booked after that date will be refunded in full. The Sardinia-based airline, which was previously known as Meridiana, operates routes throughout Italy along with international flights to New York, Los Angeles, Africa, Cairo, and Lagos.

Air Italy's liquidation in the latest in a string of closures of European airlines amid increasing competition and rapidly evolving business models. In October 2018, Danish airline owned by Primera Travel Group, Primera Air, had ceased operations. In February of last year, German airline Germania ceased operations and filed for bankruptcy. Around the same time, British airline Flybmi also ceased operations.  Just a month later, Icelandic budget airline Wow Air suddenly halted all flights, stranding hundreds of passengers.

According to reports citing sources close to the matter, the Italian government is apparently finding ways to revive the airline by looking for possible investors willing to take over the company. So far, Irish low-cost carrier Ryanair has expressed interest in acquiring the company. Ryaniar officials revealed that they are prepared to make an offer during a press conference that will be held this week.