Italy’s new state-owned airline Italia Transporto Aereo (ITA) is in talks with Airbus over a potential order for 81 commercial jets, to be acquired over the next four years.
Speaking with local news outlet Corriere Della Sera, three anonymous sources stated that the European planemaker has taken the lead in the battle to provide the new airline with next-generation jets, in a tender valued at US$5.3 billion.
In order to “eliminate the complexity and inefficiencies deriving from operating aircraft from different manufacturers”, ITA plans on relying on only one “strategic partner”, putting Airbus and its US rival Boeing head-to-head for the deal.
While Airbus appears tipped to win at this time, Boeing remains in the game for now, with the US planemaker offering ITA discounts of up to 70 per cent for aircraft and guaranteed maintenance.
While Boeing’s offer is appealing, ITA is still discussing with both competitors to operate a “rapid conversion of the fleet”, as no official plans have been penned.
The Italian government and the European Commission announced that ITA will officially replace its bankrupt predecessor, Alitalia, as Italy’s flag carrier, with flights due to begin in October.
The long-awaited decision made a few weeks ago will see flights for ITA begin on 15 October, with Alitalia’s final flight to operate the day before, on 14 October.
The newly-secured deal allows ITA to avoid taking on the liabilities of its predecessor and be recognised as an entirely new entity.
State-owned Alitalia has been bankrupt since 2017, only surviving through government loans.
The company will operate a fleet of seven wide-body and 45 narrow-body jets initially, and will acquire up to 26 additional aircraft this year.
ITA hopes to see its fleet increase to 105 aircraft by 2025.
Alitalia’s fleet consists of Boeing 777s and Airbus A330s for its long-haul flights, A321, A320 and A319 for medium haul flights.
The carrier also operates Embraer E190 and E175 for its regional flights.
If a deal is struck with Airbus, the new fleet would consist of solely A220-300s, A320neos, A321neos and A330neos, according to the sources.
The new carrier must decide within a year on which planemaker it will choose as the fleet renewal will likely take some time due to its order and delivery congestion.
An Airbus spokesperson said, “Interlocutions with all our customers are confidential, we cannot comment on the rumors.”
A Boeing spokesperson said that Alitalia is a long-term customer, but any further details will not be disclosed.