Editorial: What will happen to Air Malta?

Last Updated on Thursday, 27 April, 2023 at 12:45 pm by Andre Camilleri

There is quite some confusion with regard to Air Malta’s future.

On the one hand, we had the airline’s chairman David Curmi saying that the national carrier will be shut down by the end of the year and replaced by a new company in what he described as a “seamless transition”.

He said that a five-year business plan had been created and that if “we stick to that plan”, Malta will have a national carrier which makes business sense. This was happening because, he said, the European Commission had rejected the government’s plan to inject €300m to save the airline.

A few hours after his words had been reported, in comes the Finance Minister, Clyde Caruana, to say that discussions on the future of the airline are still ongoing and that a decision is expected by summer.

In an interview with state broadcaster TVM, Caruana said that the European Commission had sought more information from the government before making a final decision. When it was pointed out to him that Curmi had said Malta will have a new airline by the end of the year, Caruana said that this was just one of the options.

As you can see, there is a discrepancy between what the man, politically responsible for the airline and the man, who is commercially responsible for it, are saying.

In the meantime, the future of the airline remains unknown while its reputation continues to plummet with reports of lengthy delays. Added to this, the 300 or so employees that remain with the airline do not know whether they will have a job by the end of 2023. The number of workers employed by the carrier has been whittled down to around 300, as another 351 have been given some €60m between them in severance packages.

It was not so long ago that the government was boasting that Air Malta had made a turnaround after years of difficulty. A video that was making the rounds on social media last week showed then Minister Konrad Mizzi, in 2019, boasting that Malta had made a profit and that he was dreaming of seeing the national airline become a hub of international connections. He had also said that he dreamed of seeing Air Malta aircraft on the runways in New York and India.

Things have worked out differently from what Mizzi was anticipating. But now the government must really come up with a solution. It cannot wait much longer before making up its mind. For many years, Air Malta was reliable and efficient; today it is no longer so. The advent of low-cost airlines has pushed clients away from it, and the airline did not keep up with them. The Green Party (ADPD) is correct to point out that the carrier was by and large ruined by the clientelism that was adopted by both the Labour and the Nationalist Party when they were in government.

It is hoped that, if and when a new airline will be set up, the mistakes that have been committed in the past will not be repeated.

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