Andy Nativi/GENOA Jens Flottau/BERLIN

British Airways has confirmed that it is continuing to study the launch of an airline to compete in the Italian domestic market. It plans to decide on the venture shortly.

The UK carrier originally considered establishing an Italian franchise operation this year, but was forced to shelve the plan after National Jet Systems (NJS) of Australia, which was due to operate the flights, encountered problems in securing an air operators certificate.

Sources in Italy suggest that NJS still features in BA's plans, while Australian sources say the regional carrier is involved in pilot training in Europe. BA's initial plans envisaged the use of British Aerospace 146 aircraft or RJ-100s, followed by Airbus A320s.

Chief executive Bob Ayling confirms that BA's Italian ambitions remain very much alive. "We are at an advanced stage in discussions with a partner in Italy on the development of services there," he says, adding that the issue will be decided "within the next few months" and that the "plans look very good, very solid".

Italian sources say BA has met Italian airport operators and has also contacted Assoclearance, responsible for the country's slot allocation. BA's Speedwing consultancy helped evaluate its Italian options. Managing director Steve Dunning says there remains a strong business case.

"It's a good market for someone," he says.

Source: Flight International