The Malta Independent 15 April 2024, Monday
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TMID Editorial: Air Malta’s final days

Tuesday, 26 March 2024, 12:31 Last update: about 19 days ago

Air Malta will, later this week, have its final flight.

The airline will be closing its doors after its financial struggles finally caught up to it, to be replaced by a new company. It will be strange no longer seeing the Air Malta logo and name at the airport; after all, it was our airline.

Air Malta provided an extremely important link to Europe and the Middle East for many years. Since it was set up, other airlines launched routes to Malta, but the importance of a national airline was always there.

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During Covid-19 for instance, Air Malta was also used to bring in important medical supplies such as Covid vaccines to the islands.

But the airline struggled financially. Finance Minister Clyde Caruana had once said that former politicians from both administrations over the years have “used and abused” Air Malta for their own benefit. And he is not wrong. The number of people hired at the airline over the years was always in question, and certain agreements made were also quite ridiculous.

The airline was clearly already in trouble in 2012, when the European Commission had communicated its decision confirming approval of Restructuring Aid for Air Malta p.l.c.

The PN had then criticised the current government for not sticking to that plan and, clearly, the airline wasn’t saved. Both sides are to blame for the situation Air Malta found itself in. The airline was mismanaged.

Recently, different ministers came up with different plans to try and save the airline, remember the idea of a strategic partner that never materialised?

The government had, in 2022, announced that it set out to try and get permission to inject funding into Air Malta to save it, adding that the airline would need to reduce its staff complement by half. The European Commission, in the end, clearly did not allow a funding injection, and the path forward was to close Air Malta and launch a new airline, which later was unveiled to be called KM Malta Airlines. Air Malta’s last flight was announced to be on 30 March 2024, with the first KM Malta Airlines flight planned for 31 March. 

Moving forward, this is a good opportunity for a reset of the national airline. But, it cannot be treated as it was in the past. It cannot hire people if they are not needed, and it cannot pick to fly routes which are not profitable, or at least break even.

Politicians from both parties need to be committed to running this airline like a commercial one. The islands need a national air carrier, there is no question about that, but the country cannot afford to go down the same road that it did with Air Malta. The best people for the job, in terms of managing KM Malta Airlines, must always be at the top and should not be influenced by politicians.

The airline must also seek out strategic agreements, and on this note, it was announced that it has already signed a bi-lateral codeshare agreement with Lufthansa Group, connecting the networks and flights of the participating partner airlines.

The next few years will be absolutely crucial for KM Malta Airlines, and whether it succeeds or not. It will need to keep on its toes and plan well ahead into the future, but remain nimble enough to shift if something isn’t working.

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