The Malta Independent 25 October 2020, Sunday

Airport reopening date to be announced in the coming days – Tourism Minister

Friday, 29 May 2020, 11:44 Last update: about 6 months ago

Tourism Minister Julia Farrugia Portelli had indicated that Prime Minister Robert Abela will be announcing the date for the reopening of Malta’s International Airport (MIA) in the coming days,

This information was revealed on Thursday during TVM’s programme Xtra.

At the start of the Covid-19 pandemic in Malta, all air traffic to and from Malta was stopped on 21 March and the ban was scheduled to last till 16 June.

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The reopening date will be set around mid-July.

During the programme, Farrugia Portelli explained that the government always had a date in mind but never revealed it as it did not want to run the risk of having to backtrack if there was a drastic increase in Covid-19 cases in other countries.

Now, the situation seems to be stable enough for the government to reveal the official date of the reopening of Malta’s airport – “and we will be treating that day as the day we will reopen in the safest possible manner,” she said.

She assured that Malta is safe to have a summer season this year due to the protocols that have been put in place by Malta Tourism Authority (MTA). She added that discussions are also underway for protocols on an international level, specifically ones relating to airports and travelling.

Air Malta has already released one measure that will be mandatory for any passengers travelling with the airline.

On Thursday evening, the airline posted on its Facebook page saying that even though “evidence suggests that the risk of transmission on board an aircraft is low due to the high efficient air ventilation and filtration systems… as of 1st June 2020, all passengers travelling on an Air Malta flight will be required to wear, at all times, their own face mask.”

 

 

 

The airline emphasised that the mask has to be kept on during boarding, transfer to and from the aircraft, and on-board at all times and that passengers without their own face mask will not be allowed to board the aircraft.

It also suggested that travellers should keep their masks on within the airport building itself as an added safety measure.

Last week, The Malta Independent was informed that the MIA is also expected to see some changes as it could axe dozens of routes in its Winter 2020 and Summer 2021 schedules as the effects of the Coronavirus pandemic on the tourism industry are expected to drag on well into next year.

MIA said several factors which it does not yet have an understanding of, including when Malta’s travel ban will be lifted, determine the extent of this impact.

Malta is discussing opening safe corridors with Luxembourg, Norway, Serbia, Slovakia, Austria, the Czech Republic, Latvia, Lithuania and Israel.

The UK is also mulling the idea of ‘air bridges’, removing the 14-day quarantine requirement for people coming from ‘safe’ countries, while Italy has said it will open its airports on 3 June. It is unlikely, however, that Malta will consider re-launching flights to the two countries at this stage – even if they are Malta’s biggest tourism markets – given their high Covid-19 infection rates.

MHRA boss Tony Zahra believes that those who think that things will return to normal the day the airport reopens are “gravely mistaken.”

He said that, the most positive scenario predicted by industry sources is of 1.3 million tourists visiting Malta in 2021. This is around a third of the tourism figures for 2019.

Zahra added that it is very difficult to predict what routes could be axed and if flight frequencies would change, adding that Malta would have to adapt to the situation.

“If we manage to get 30% to 40% of last year’s numbers in the upcoming winter schedule, it would not be so bad,” Zahra said.

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