New airline Malta Air, an airline which will be based in Malta and which is owned and operated by Ryanair, will fly to over 60 destinations in 21 countries across Europe and North Africa but will not, according to Prime Minister Joseph Muscat and Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi, clash with the operations of national airline Air Malta.
Malta Air will initially have a fleet of six Boeing 737 aircraft based in Malta, but this will increase to ten aircraft within the next three years, an investment in the region of $1 billion. The airline will initially employ 200 personnel, but this number is expected to increase to 350 personnel within three years. As part of the agreement, 50 Ryanair aircraft will also be registered in Malta’s jurisdiction and hence take the 9H registration code.
The first of these aircraft was registered in Malta on Monday night, while the rest will be registered in due course. The airline’s aircraft will take on the special livery – characterised by the eight-pointed Maltese cross on its tail as of Summer 2020.
“Today’s agreement will take travel and tourism to the next level”, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi said at the launch of the airline. Mizzi noted that although one may think that Malta Air would clash with Air Malta, this would not be the case as the two airlines will complement each other – with Malta Air taking on Ryanair’s current low-cost routes and Air Malta continuing in its emphasis on cargo routes, medium haul routes, and routes to key hubs such as Frankfurt and London’s Heathrow airport.
The Prime Minister meanwhile also spoke of his certainty that the development of Malta Air runs “parallel with making Air Malta the airline of the Mediterranean.” “We firmly believe that Malta Air and Air Malta can reciprocally strengthen each other in different markets”, Muscat said.
Muscat said that Malta’s aim was to bring visitors to the islands using as many routes as possible, thus enhancing the country’s connectivity.
He said that Malta is looking to penetrate markets elsewhere in EU and beyond and are tapping markets far and wide – a strategy which is reaping results as shown by Air Malta registering a surplus for the first time in a number of years. Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi in fact later noted that Air Malta is exploring opening routes to Mumbai, India and to sub-Saharan Africa.
“Long live Air Malta”, Muscat concluded.
Mizzi noted that while the airline is owned by Ryanair, the Maltese government has a “golden share” which can be used to protect Malta’s interests. The government will in fact have veto right on a change in the company’s name and on a transfer of the Aircraft Operating Certificate or Aircraft Operating License to the oversight of a civil aviation authority outside of Malta.
In a statement, Ryanair Holdings today announced it has agreed to purchase Malta Air, a Maltese start-up airline, into which Ryanair will move and grow its Malta-based fleet of six B737 aircraft.
This investment in Malta Air will allow Ryanair to grow its already sizeable presence in Malta – three million customers per year – and access non-EU markets in North Africa from Malta.
The completion of the move is set for the end of June.
Once the move is completed, Ryanair Holdings will switch six Malta based aircraft onto the Maltese register while 200 Malta based crew move onto local contracts, paying local Maltese taxes.
The fleet will increase to 10 within three years and 350 more jobs will be created.
Ryanair will also brand its Malta-based fleet in Malta Air colours for summer 2020.
Speaking at the press conference, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said Malta Air will now join the Ryanair group of airlines which includes also Buzz (Poland), Lauda (Austria) and Ryanair (Ireland).
Malta Air, he said, will fly the Maltese name and flag to over 60 destinations across Europe and North Africa.
Asked by the Malta Independent what guarantee there was that the routes of the two airlines did not eventually clash, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said that “there’s never a guarantee, but it’s unlikely”.
“If you look at routes that Air Malta serves, they are generally routes that Ryanair has not served or is not interested in serving”, O’Leary said before noting that Ryanair flies to around 240 airports at the moment so the potential to grow the current 60 routes on offer is huge.
“None of those would ever have to cross over the existing routes that are operated by Air Malta”, O’Leary said before noting that Ryanair would like to see Air Malta strengthen itself as an airline.