Last Updated on Friday, 30 October, 2020 at 9:18 am by Andre Camilleri
164,000 + requests for refunds were settled with a value of €15.9 million; The government is finishing a state aid request which will be presented to the EU Commission in the coming days – Minister Schembri
Whilst addressing a press conference, Minister for the Economy, Investment and Small Businesses Silvio Schembri, who is responsible for Air Malta, announced Air Malta’s Winter flight schedule, covering 21 destinations across key cities in Europe with 156 flights a week. The Business Guarantee program was also launched to ensure connectivity and capacity at market rates for visitors, residents, companies and medical institutions to 15 destinations and 82 weekly flights, which will be operated in all circumstances.
“In view of the constant change in scenario, the Winter 20/21 Flight Schedule will be done differently this year to give peace of mind to the client who might remain stranded due to the cancellation of a flight. Through the Business Guarantee, the operation of a network defined on the passenger and cargo movements will be ensured in any case when legally possible. During the winter schedule, there will be 156 flights a week, 50% of which are business guaranteed. This will guarantee access to major airport hubs irrespective of any cancellation,” explained Minister Schembri.
Minister Schembri also launched Air Malta’s Flexibility Guaranteed stamp, through which the airline will give additional booking flexibility for clients to benefit from an improved customer experience through the upgrades implemented in the online portal. “Air Malta is also working to ensure that, through more operational efficiency, it will be able to offer more competitive fares – some starting from €29 this Winter,” he said.
Minister Schembri said that recent times have clearly shown, now more than ever, the importance for a small country like Malta to have its own national airline, which ultimately, despite the circumstances, ensured connectivity with the rest of the world.
“Air Malta was crucial in the carrying of essential goods, an uninterrupted postal service, transporting of patients for care abroad, long flights whenever the need arose and, more importantly, it offered tranquillity during such a challenging time. This is why the government remains committed to strengthening and safeguarding our national airline. To this end, the government is finishing a state aid request which will be presented to the EU Commission in the coming days,” said Minister Schembri.
When describing Air Malta’s performance, it was explained that the first sign of an impact on air travel started at the beginning of March 2020. Air Malta reacted immediately and on March 4th began easing fare conditions which offered the customer more flexibility.
Following the closure of the commercial aviation airspace, on 8th March the airline began suspending flights to affected areas, with the first being the Milan route. Two days later, the airline closed its Italian, Swiss, German, French and Spanish network routes for commercial traffic.
During the Lifeline Schedule (21 March – 30 June 2020), Air Malta operated 506 flight sectors and repatriated 12,728 passengers. The Lifeline Schedule had only five routes; London Heathrow, Rome, Frankfurt, Amsterdam and Paris Charles De Gaulle. It also operated a repatriation flight to long-distance destinations, namely India.
During this time, Air Malta maintained vital cargo connectivity to and from the islands. A total of 662 tonnes were transported by Air Malta to and from the islands. To increase freight capacity, even aircraft cabins were loaded with PPE and mail.
Air Malta was instrumental in saving up to €5.5 million in freight costs when it assisted the government of Malta in delivering around 800 tonnes of medical supplies to frontline workers at Mater Dei Hospital.
Air Malta Chairman Charles Mangion stated that, against the backdrop of numerous challenges brought about by the pandemic, the national airline sought to continue serving customers who had had their booked flights cancelled. So far, Air Malta has refunded €15,900,000 to customers, travel agents and tour operators, totalling 164,729 claims.
Air Malta is currently in the process of paying €7,350,000 in refunds for 58,000 more claims from customers, travel agents and tour operators.
“The global Covid-19 pandemic is disrupting travel in unprecedented ways. With good reason, airlines around the world have reduced capacity in a bid to match the dramatic decline in demand. This has added another level of complexity to island states such as Malta, which rely on air travel for their economic and social wellbeing and their connectivity to Europe, which goes beyond passengers and freight flows,” said Air Malta Chairman Charles Mangion.
“Despite these limitations, this Winter Air Malta will serve several destinations and will do its best to maintain regular and reliable flight connections with major European cities for customers wishing to travel for tourism purposes, business, or visiting friends and relatives, as well as for the transportation of goods to the country. Despite the reduced flights and frequencies over the past year, we are reaffirming our commitment to the Maltese Islands by guaranteeing that we will keep them connected at least with a minimum schedule on set days,” added Dr Mangion.
“Many airlines are cancelling their flights, creating even more disruptions for travellers. To alleviate this challenge, in addition to our flight schedule this season, we are announcing a guaranteed minimum schedule that we promise to operate no matter what, unless circumstances are beyond Air Malta’s control, like weather or airport closures,” added Paul Sies, Air Malta’s Chief Commercial Officer.
“We are ensuring that business-related destinations are operated on key days at guaranteed minimum frequencies. Flights to leisure destinations have their frequencies adjusted to allow for short weekend and mid-week trips. For peace of mind and in order to regain consumer confidence, reimbursements for booking flight tickets on our issued services will continue to be waived until further notice,” added Mr Sies.
For more information, one may visit www.airmalta.com.