Last Updated on Thursday, 20 January, 2022 at 11:19 am by Andre Camilleri
The measures announced with regards to staff reduction within Air Malta are the last hope to ensure that the airline survives, which Malta International Airport is in support of, said MIA CEO Alan Borg at a press conference on Tuesday.
Recent announcements made by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana revealed that Air Malta will be reducing its personnel by over 400, which amounts to around half of the staff. Around 120 personnel from the cabin crew as well as administrative staff will lose their respective jobs in the sector. The company’s ground handling operation will also be shut down, with 300 employees to be transferred to other government sectors. The cuts will mean that the airline would save around €15 million a year, Minister Caruana said.
During the year of 2021, Malta suffered a mere recovery of just 34.8% of 2019 passenger numbers, with 2.5 million travelling through the island’s national airport last year.
“Air Malta clearly has a very important role, which is that is essentially realigns itself to all primary airports in Europe. The numbers presented speak for themselves and the measures mentioned by the government are the last fighting chance for the airline to survive,” Borg said.
He added that MIA has passed on its support to ministers involved, including Air Malta’s Executive Chairman David Curmi over the recent developments.
“Air Malta is a vital link for the Maltese islands – Malta’s viability is a key point,” he said.
Due to new restrictions imposed by governments in attempt to curb the pandemic, air travel traffic developments have been greatly impacted. “We lost a lot of flights already, and as time progresses, it is likely that we will lose further flights,” said Borg.
Borg highlighted that 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 already, he said, highlighting the fragility of the market.
Furthermore, the market for Malta has proved to be lacking compared to other countries in the Mediterranean area, with Greece and Cyprus doing far better in restoring traffic development, their recovery numbers seeing 52.5% and 44.3% respectively.
MIA appealed to government for a post-Covid-19 strategy, which would give the industry the confidence to invest in businesses, and to incentivise the industry to upgrade the product and tourism offering. The aim to increase consumer confidence in booking Malta as an ideal destination is also important, it said.
The Malta Chamber of Commerce, Enterprise and Industry said that Air Malta has found itself in this situation due to unsustainable operational practices and investing public funds into unviable business models, solely to safeguard jobs or for political convenience. It said that Air Malta would survive if even more than half of its personnel is removed, suggesting that these staff should be considered for secondment to the private industry.
Air Malta represented 23% of last year’s passenger share, second to Ryan Air, which amounted to 44%. Curmi had also spoken about the increase of charter flights, which in the space of a year, this generated €3.9 million for the company. Charter business was however hit staggeringly in the market, compared to other businesses such as low-cost and legacy carriers, with a market share of 1%.