Last Updated on Thursday, 9 December, 2021 at 1:47 pm by Andre Camilleri
The last three months of 2021 (especially October) were encouraging for Air Malta, a spokesperson told The Malta Independent, but problems have since cropped up.
“Ongoing lack of customer confidence in making bookings, social uneasiness, the continued changes in travel requirements by some countries and the fears of the Omicron variant in the last weeks have depressed market sentiment and booking demand has lost its momentum,” the spokesperson said.
Travel has been the most heavily impacted industry since the Covid-19 pandemic emerged in 2020. The introduction of the vaccines in 2021 started to raise hopes, and Malta’s travel industry opened again early in summer.
The Malta Independent sent questions to Malta’s national airline. Air Malta was asked how the airline has fared in terms of passengers this year compared to 2020 and how the last quarter is faring. It was also asked for details as to its strongest markets, how the virus and restrictions are affecting the airline, its concerns regarding the Omicron variant and its predictions for 2022.
“2021 has been a difficult year for the airline. The year was characterised by depressed and fluctuating market demand across all the airline’s main markets, with varying degree,” the spokesperson said.
“Across this year, there have been bouts of improved performance over 2020, however a sustained market demand failed to materialise.”
In terms of passenger figures, when compared to 2020, the airline fared better with a 10% increase, the spokesperson said. “However, when we compare this year to 2019, passenger loads remain significantly behind.”
Over the last year Air Malta has shifted its focus to operate high frequencies to primary European markets, the spokesperson explained. “The traditional markets of France, the UK, and Germany have remained the strongest, with Italy having been the slowest to recover.”
“The airline has a team that everyday monitors the evolving situation. This team issues directives to the airline’s ground handling operators about the changing requirements in each country it operates. The airline also monitors market demand and periodically reviews its network and flight frequencies to match the changing scenarios.”
As for the year ahead, the spokesperson said that in this ever-changing situation, “it is very difficult to make any predictions, however Air Malta will continue to do its utmost to be a vital link to mainland Europe not only for travel and tourism, but also for the transfer of urgent medical cargo, mail and other import and export freight required for our various industries.”
The government had applied to the European Commission in October 2020 to provide state aid in view of the losses incurred as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic, but unlike several other EU countries, the Maltese government was asked for more information regarding Air Malta’s specific case.
Asked for an update regarding the state aid request for Air Malta, the airline spokesperson said: “Discussions with the European Commission are still ongoing, and it is premature to comment at this stage.”