The Malta Independent 30 March 2023, Thursday
View E-Paper

TMID Editorial: Gozo airfield from our taxes? No, thank you

Monday, 23 January 2023, 09:58 Last update: about 3 months ago

The topic of connectivity between Malta and Gozo has always been something of a hot one.  In many ways it has been one of the most significant debates about the sister island in the past ten or so years: everyone seems to agree that there needs to be more connectivity between Malta and Gozo, but exactly how that is achieved remains a matter of interpretation.

The now momentarily shelved, long-proposed Gozo tunnel was the most headline-dominating project, but since then there has been the introduction of a fast-ferry service – after a number of procurement-related false starts – and, more recently, the publishing of plans for the building of a regional airfield in Gozo.


The runway, if approved, be built in Xewkija on land which will adjoin to the already existing helipad.  The land in question isn’t agricultural and is within the development zone.  It will be around 450 metres long and will cater for small aircraft which can carry up to 11 passengers.

The government is seeking to operate the airfield through public-private partnerships.  The airfield will not operate any international flights – meaning that the only commercial flights in and out will be to the Malta International Airport in Luqa.

It is not the first time that attempts have been made for air connectivity to Gozo.

A helicopter service between Malta and Gozo lasted just 18 months, after the Spanish company which operated it shut up shop in 2006.  A seaplane service, which operated between Mgarr Harbour and Valletta’s Grand Harbour lasted considerably longer – between 2007 and 2012 – but ultimately met the same fate as the helicopter.

Figures such as former Labour Party leader and Prime Minister Alfred Sant have, both in previous months and now also last week, criticised the idea, saying that it can never even begin to hope to turn a profit and be financially viable.

This suggestion was rebutted by the Gozo Tourism Association on Saturday, which said that it would be “justice delayed” if such an air link was not built, and compared any government outlay to the government spending taxpayer’s money to build and fund roads without any tolls from users.

“The same applies to the sea and air links between Malta and Gozo. That is why the present ferry service between Mġarr and Cirkewwa is supported by a public service obligation contract (PSO). That is why the government is presently discussing with the EU a similar public service obligation contract to cover the fast-ferry service between Mġarr and Valletta,” the GTA said.

The mention of the fast-ferry is significant in this debate.  This is because the fast-ferry was a service which was significantly in demand before it began.  Many called for it, and yet now just over a year since two companies launched a fast ferry service between Valletta and Mgarr, both of them are floundering and have had to grovel to the government for funds to keep them afloat (pun not intended).

Till then the service is running on a skeleton calendar, at hours which Gozitan residents have found scarcely useful. In the meantime, the government has announced that it will be putting 12 million of taxpayer’s funds into the service for two years to keep it going.

So with that in mind, should the government really be considering shelling out millions more in taxpayer’s funds in order to prop up another connection between Malta and Gozo: especially a connection which in the past has been nothing but a failure?

It is the government’s responsibility to manage the people’s money in the most responsible manner, and at this point it’s clear that if the fast-ferry service and the Gozo Channel are both haemorrhaging money, then an airfield will definitely not fare any better.

There are plenty of places that the government should spend a few million in taxpayer funds.  A small airfield in Gozo isn’t one of them.

  • don't miss