As Malta approaches the June 1 tourism reopening, there’s agreement across the board that Air Malta must be saved.
Air Malta is dominating the tourism discourse, with government doing all it can to secure state aid for the national airline.
“Our aim is to save Air Malta and ensure that Air Malta, which has a strategic importance for us, continues to fly,” Tourism Minister Clayton Bartolo said.
However, MHRA President Tony Zahra warned that Air Malta should not remain under the sole ownership of government, as company decisions need to be taken from a commercial aspect, not a political one.
“As long as it remains completely government owned, we’re going to have problems,” he cautioned.
Opposition spokesperson Robert Arrigo also sounded the alarm bells over the Ryanair-owned Malta Air, and how its CEO sought legal reddress in European courts against state aid offered to various airlines, including Air Malta.
A significant benefit to Air Malta is the added connectivity it allows for Malta, which relies so heavily on tourism for economic growth. Bartolo was considerably optimistic on the five new routes being provided by Ryanair, which will operate twice weekly as part of Malta’s Summer 2021 schedule.
“Ryanair believes that there is an interest in Malta,” Bartolo said, insisting that these new routes are a certificate of the touristic confidence held in Malta.
Arrigo was a bit more cynical, insisting that capacity issues could arise.
“If a plane, route, or agency with their own planes used to offer 80 flights per week two years ago, and now do eight flights per week, it’s a problem. If there are airports that we used to be connected to all year round, and now are only connected with them in summer, there is also a problem,” he said.
Summer festivals and mass events
The Tourism Minister acknowledged that event organisers are already advertising festivals, with some even selling tickets, despite clear guidelines prohibiting mass events altogether.
However, he confirmed that while government has no power to stop these events from being marketed, no mass events will be taking place without the go-ahead from health authorities.
“We can’t stop them, but we can stop the activities from taking place,” he explained.