Aviation Services Handling Ltd will as from this week be taking over all the ground handling operations currently being carried out by Air Malta employees, The Shift is informed. The company is a new one formed between Air Malta and Italian private ground handling operators, the Rome-based Aviation Services SpA,
Last May, The Shift revealed the government’s plans to farm out the national airline’s ground handling operations to an Italian company, shedding some 600 Air Malta employees in the process.
In the meantime, all Air Malta ground handling employees being replaced by foreign staff are holding farewell parties after receiving generous publicly-financed golden handshakes offered by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana.
While some employees, those who have been with the company for over 30 years, were given extraordinary handshakes of over €200,000 each, the minister has not made any statements about how the company has decided to offload part of its operations to an Italian company.
The Shift is informed that the new ground handling operator will start with only the sparse workload left by the airline, which, apart from its own planes, services Turkish Airlines and ITA, Alitalia’s successor.
Until a few years ago, Air Malta ground handlers used to service many other airlines operating in Malta, but, due to mismanagement, the airline lost all of its most profitable contracts.
The new joint venture will be completely controlled by the Italian shareholders, who were given a 60 per cent majority stake in the new venture.
While Air Malta chairman David Curmi and Saviour Falzon have been appointed company directors, Italians Giuseppe Battafarano, Giulio Comerci and Cristiana Sebastiani will be calling all the shots at the new company.
On its part, Air Malta – already in a precarious financial situation – will be paying millions to the new company for providing it with its ground handling requirements.
Meanwhile, The Shift is informed that Finance Minster Clyde Caruana is making no headway in ongoing EU discussions on the state aid necessary to keep Air Malta flying.
Caruana this week shifted the blame of the state of the beleaguered airline from his predecessor, disgraced former minister Konrad Mizzi, to the previous Nationalist Party administration, which has been out of office for almost a decade now.
Caruana already made a number of blunders in the latest ongoing ‘restructuring plan’, by first promising redundant Air Malta employees a guaranteed job in the public service, and later, after the election, ditching his promise and instead offering them outrageous golden handshakes.
The General Workers Union, which represents the interests of its members at Air Malta, stayed mum and quietly accepted the finance minister’s massive U-turn.
The Shift has already revealed that the government plans to completely shut Air Malta down and start a new national airline based on a low-cost model. In the meantime, the finance ministry continues to take out massive loans to finance its unprecedented deficits, including the millions it requires to bail out Air Malta.