The Malta Independent 21 May 2022, Saturday

Watch: Final Air Malta Covid aid figure to be ‘hammered out’ in meeting in coming days

Sabrina Zammit Monday, 24 January 2022, 17:04 Last update: about 5 months ago

The final amount in Covid aid that Air Malta will be getting will be “hammered out” in meetings between the airline and the European Commission that will take place in the coming days, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said on Monday.

Last week, Caruana announced that Air Malta would have to shed half its workforce in a bid to remain afloat. Discussions between the government, the airline and the EC over the requested state aid are ongoing. Caruana said last week he could not yet say what the final approved amount would be.

“In the coming days, there will be a meeting between the Commission and technical people at the ministry level and the management of the airline. I presume they will hammer out the final figure that will be given to Air Malta as Covid aid during that meeting,” Caruana told journalists.

The finance minister reiterated that the Cabinet had been kept informed of all developments and had approved the plan. He also insisted that the workers were not being sacked but were rather being offered alternative employment with the government.

“I was surprised to see that even the Nationalist Party, during a meeting with representatives of Air Malta, encouraged them to take up government employment.”

Caruana said the plan would not have been unveiled had there been no agreement at Cabinet level.  

Asked what happens if these workers do not accept to take up another job with the government, Caruana said he was certain that common sense would prevail.

He insisted that decisions needed to be taken. The unions understood and they will be explaining everything to their members, he added. Caruana said that, before taking the discussion any further, the government would first need to see how many Air Malta workers are interested in taking up the offer of alternative employment.

Asked about previous plans for longer distance flights, Caruana said the immediate issue is to ensure that flights are profitable.

“Whether it goes to Frankfurt, Brussels, London… you name it… unfortunately at the moment there is a loss. So of course, the company has to make sure that it gets its books in order by ensuring that wherever it goes to, it is profitable.  That’s what the executive chairman is doing: making sure that whatever destination Air Malta flies to are profitable and that perhaps should be the ultimate motive of the company.  Wherever it goes, it has to be profitable.”

Caruana said even European flights can be run at a loss, let alone long-haul flights.

“So first we have make sure that even flights which are more straightforward, from point A to point B, are run in a profitable manner. Experience has shown that new routes where Air Malta started to fly recently generated significant losses which have burnt the company millions of euros.”



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