Last Updated on Tuesday, 18 January, 2022 at 2:13 pm by Andre Camilleri
More than 2.5 million passengers travelled through Malta International Airport last year and, although this is a 45.3% increase over the 2020 figures, it marks a recovery of just 34.8 per cent of 2019 passenger numbers.
CEO of Malta International Airport Alan Borg and Head of Traffic Development Alex Cardona today presented the airport’s full-year traffic results for 2021, showing the impacts the industry suffered due to the pandemic.
The Covid-19 crisis clearly dominated traffic development in Europe in every way, as airports have been scrambling to recover despite restrictive measures being imposed by governments around the EU, said Borg.
European airport’s traffic in 2019 stood at just at 2.4 billion passenger movements whilst results for 2021 were that of between 1.4 and 1.5 billion passengers, translating to approximately 60% of 2019 numbers recoup.
2,540,335 passengers travelled through Malta International Airport in 2021, marking a recovery of only 34.8% of 2019 passenger numbers.
“Malta was among the top countries for vaccination rates in 2021 which became a selling point in terms of being perceived as a safe destination, however, as more countries increase their vaccination rates, there will be more competition in the coming months,” he said, adding that the vaccine certificate has proved to be a safer way to travel.
Following a slow first half of year, a sign of recovery was seen in the third quarter of the year, with figures tripling over the second quarter. Borg said that Malta’s recovery is still lagging behind that of its peers, despite the retention of 70% of 2019 connectivity.
MIA’s best-performing month was October, when more than 428,000 passenger movements were registered, a result of the easing of restrictions and a higher demand for leisure travel.
On the other hand, air travel saw an immediate downturn due to tighter restrictions at the end of the year, seeing around 850 flights cancellations for the first quarter of 2022, he said, highlighting the fragility of the market.
MIA appealed to government for a post-COVID strategy, which would give the industry the confidence to invest in businesses and a chance to increase consumer confidence. It appealed for the government to incentivise the industry to upgrade the product and tourism offering.
“The impact of burdensome travel requirements will continue to be felt in 2022,” said Borg, adding that the company is disappointed that the EU Covid-19 digital certificate expires within three months after second doses rather than the EU’s nine months.
The top markets for 2021 were Italy and the UK, with the winter season being impacted the most, said Cardona. “We may have done a better job at restoring traffic compared to other countries in the Mediterranean area,” he said, adding that Malta was not seen as an attractive destination compared to Greece and Cyprus in 2021, their recovery numbers seeing 52.5% and 44.3% respectively.