The Malta Independent 23 June 2021, Wednesday

Government will focus on ‘stepped approach’ to restart Malta’s air routes

Kevin Schembri Orland Monday, 15 February 2021, 10:25 Last update: about 5 months ago

The government will focus on a “stepped approach” when it comes to restarting Malta’s air routes, which aims to ensure “the right mix of destinations and frequencies,” a spokesperson for the Tourism Ministry told The Malta Independent.

Covid-19 negatively impacted tourism around the world and tourist numbers in Malta dropped drastically.

Malta International Airport (MIA) ended 2020 with just 1,748,050 passenger movements, translating to a drop of 76.1% over 2019. This was the lowest traffic result to be reported by Malta International Airport plc since the company assumed management of the air terminal in 2002, when full-year traffic amounted to 2.6 million passenger movements.

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MIA had also said, specifically about the month of January 2021, that it registered significant drops in weekly flight frequencies for the month. “From among Malta International Airport’s top airports for the month, Rome Fiumicino was hit hardest, as the 27 weekly flights operated in January 2020 were whittled down to just eight. Changing travel requirements and restrictions also had an impact on overall connectivity, with Malta International Airport’s direct connections being limited to just 28 scheduled routes in January 2021 as opposed to 99 scheduled routes operated in January 2020.” MIA had said that Several international industry organisations predict that, following an extremely rocky first quarter of 2021, the tourism industry may expect to start seeing signs of recovery with the onset of the summer season.

But the situation raises many questions. The Malta Independent asked the Tourism Ministry, among other things, about the government’s plans to regain routes once the Covid-19 situation begins to pass, whether there will be more of a reliance on Air Malta to fill routes lost, what role Malta MedAir will play, and how the government will entice airlines to focus on Malta as a destination.

“Airlines worldwide have been hard hit following the travel restrictions and subdued demand in the aftermath of Covid-19 over the past twelve months. Carriers have grounded aircraft fleets, furloughed crews and employees and drastically cut back on floated capacity in response to the unprecedented situation caused by the global spread of the pandemic,” a ministry spokesperson said.

“In Malta we recognise the huge importance that airline connectivity has in our quest to recover our tourism back to pre-Covid-19 levels and we are working closely with our airline partners to ensure that our destination features topmost in their reopening plans. In this respect, we are working with the broadest set of airlines to ensure that our connectivity mix continues to enable us to tap into the widest possible range of geographical source markets and market segments. To do this, we will focus on a stepped approach towards restarting routes which aim at ensuring the right mix of destinations and frequencies.

The tourism ministry spokesperson said that all previously operating airlines feature an important role in this approach: locally registered, foreign, legacy, low cost, network and point to point.

“Besides this, we are also leaving no stone unturned to capitalise on any other opportunities arising from the changed priorities of airlines which previously did not operate to Malta.”

 

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