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Air Italy's Familiar-Looking New Uniforms Likely to Fuel Concerns About Ties to Qatar Airways

March 30, 2019
4 min read
Air Italy crew members pose in front of an Air Italy aircraft.
Air Italy's Familiar-Looking New Uniforms Likely to Fuel Concerns About Ties to Qatar Airways
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Air Italy unveiled its new airline uniforms late last week and, while quite impressive and stylish, they bear a striking resemblance, as Paddle Your Own Kanoo points out, to another airline's current uniforms: Qatar Airways, a major stakeholder in Air Italy. And, the decision to implement similar looking uniforms appears intentional, fueling concerns over the Middle Eastern airline's controversial involvement in Air Italy.

Air Italy's new uniforms were designed by Danish workwear designer, Olino. The uniforms feature burgundy and charcoal grey outer layers with varying white dress shirts featuring the Air Italy logo. Uniform accessories include teal and grey neckties, burgundy and grey caps, and custom belts also with the Air Italy logo.

These new stylish uniforms also look a lot like Qatar Airways' uniforms, which feature a darker burgundy and lighter grey outer layer option with white dress shirts featuring the Qatar Airways logo, an Arabian Oryx. The uniforms were also designed by the same Danish apparel design firm. Since the airline's first flights in 1997, Qatar Airways has always taken pride in crew appearance. It was in 2008 that Qatar's current uniforms made their debut and were well received.

Qatar Airways crew aboard an Airbus A350 (Photo by Richard Baker/In Pictures/via Getty Images)
Qatar Airways crew aboard an Airbus A350 (Photo by Richard Baker/In Pictures/via Getty Images)

With hundreds of airlines operating across the globe, crew uniforms can only differ so much. However, the similarities between Air Italy's and Qatar Airways' uniforms are uncanny.

In recent years, Qatar Airways (as well as other prominent Middle Eastern airlines like Emirates and Etihad) have received a great deal of pushback from airlines across the globe. Most of this has come from US-based Delta Air Lines and American Airlines, protesting the expansion of Middle Eastern airlines like Qatar Airways due to claims that Qatar receives massive subsidies from the Qatari government. US airlines claim that these alleged subsidies create an unfair market and even violate international agreements.

The issues put forth by US airlines were reignited by Qatar Airways' purchase of 49% of Air Italy in 2017. In 2018, Meridiana was rebranded as Air Italy thanks in part to Qatar Airways' leadership. Now, US airlines are concerned that Air Italy will begin to receive funding from Qatar Airways, which would allow Air Italy to expand into markets served by US airlines and their partners. US airlines have also raised the concern of Air Italy being allowed to operate fifth-freedom routes from elsewhere in Europe to the US, which would capture business from US airlines already serving those routes.

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The concerns of US airlines managed to make their way all the way to United States Federal Government, which were brought up in high-profile talks with the Qatari government. In early 2018, US airlines applauded the US and Qatari governments when it was announced that an agreement had been reached that required Qatar Airways to release more detailed financial documents that would, supposedly, show whether or not Qatar Airways receives government subsidies. However, that agreement did not put an end to the US-Middle Eastern airlines dispute.

In November 2018, Qatar Airways threatened to leave the Oneworld alliance, of which American Airlines is a member. Additionally, in February 2019, it was rumored that Etihad Airways was planning to cut all ties with American Airlines. However, as of March 2019, the two airlines continue to cooperate on select routes.

With the US-Middle Eastern airlines saga far from over, Air Italy's stylish new uniforms provide US airlines with evidence that Qatar Airways might have too much involvement in Air Italy's operations. Whether or not new uniforms will lead to any legal action is yet to be seen.

TPG has reached out to Air Italy for comment and will update this post with any additional information.

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Featured image by (Image via Qatar Airways)