Keep dreaming – Kevin Cassar

“Let’s dream big,” Robert Abela urged the nation.  “Air Malta will continue to fly for years to come,” he announced on Valentine’s Day 2021. Abela knew that wasn’t going to happen.  Air Malta is due to shut down by the end of this year.

Abela knew exactly what dire state the airline was in because he and his father George were responsible for the damaging secret agreements with Air Malta’s pilots and ground handling staff.

That same Valentine’s Day, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana painted a less dreamy picture for Air Malta.  He revealed that the airline was losing €170,000 every single day.  He admitted the government had submitted an “honest and credible plan” to the European Commission to allow Malta to help its bankrupt airline.

He conceded, “Air Malta will only have a few weeks to live if the Commission does not allow state aid.” He admitted publicly that Malta had deceived the Commission, and as a result, “people start not to believe you”.  Caruana was being honest.

On that Valentine’s Day, Caruana told the truth.  Abela, on the other hand, deceived the nation.

Abela told the public fantasies they wanted to hear. He portrayed a bright future for Air Malta only to look good in the eyes of his supporters. He concealed the depressing truth from the nation and the airline’s employees.

He’s been hiding Air Malta’s annual reports ever since. He doesn’t want the electorate to know he’s been selling them a dream.  Alas, reality has a nasty habit of catching up with Abela.  Soon enough, the nation will wake up to the nightmare of Air Malta.

In April 2023, The Times reported that the European Commission had had enough of Malta’s lies. The Commission was at the point of refusing further state aid for Air Malta, compelling the airline to fold.

Air Malta’s chairman David Curmi confirmed that the national airline would be liquidated and employees laid off – by the end of this year. That means tens of millions of euros in hefty severance packages. The minister tried to gag Curmi to stop the embarrassing information from leaking – but it was too late.

Labour had been deceiving the nation and trying to hoodwink the European Commission for years. In 2019, Konrad Mizzi came out with the big lie.  Air Malta, he bragged, had made an operating profit of €1.2 million.  After two decades, he boasted, Air Malta was viable. Mizzi was a genius.  He showed Zammit Lewis how to do it – by cheating, lying and cooking the books.

Air Malta had made no profit.  It was tens of millions in the red.  Mizzi engineered a one-off ‘sale’ of Air Malta’s lucrative Gatwick and Heathrow slots to the government, adding €58 million to Air Malta’s profits.  Mizzi also hid huge debts in fuel bills owed to Enemalta. By delaying payment of €15 million owed in fuel bills by two weeks, Mizzi faked a €1.2 million profit for Air Malta.

Mizzi lumped those losses onto the balance sheet of the following year and then proceeded to keep the airline’s subsequent financial reports secret. They still are. The last published Annual Report and Consolidated Financial Statement on the airline’s website is from 2018 – the year of Mizzi’s infamous fraud.

Mizzi’s cheating was pretty evident to everybody. Air Malta’s reported fuel costs for 2018 were far lower than in 2017. Air Malta had the same planes and had flown 8.5% more flights with a 2.8% greater load factor. The price of fuel hadn’t changed.

Mizzi’s numbers didn’t add up. He hid €15 million of fuel debts from the public to make those false claims.

Charles Mangion, Air Malta’s chairman at the time and Minister Silvio Schembri’s uncle, joined the scam. He told Air Malta’s employees they were going “to have a bright future”.

Like Abela, Mizzi encouraged the nation to dream big, announcing wild plans for Air Malta to fly to New York and Mumbai”. Even the BBC was deceived.

Abela kept up the lie.  He, too, promised that “Air Malta will continue to fly for years to come”. But he was privy to all the shocking subterfuge at the airline.

In 2017, Abela and his father, George, helped Mizzi draft a secret agreement with 350 Air Malta ground handling staff.  They planned to shift those workers from Air Malta’s books onto a government company to thwart the European Commission by appearing to reduce Air Malta’s losses.

Abela and his father were also responsible for the despicable side agreement with Air Malta’s pilots.  Abela introduced a clause to the pilots’ collective agreement that ensured they would have a “guaranteed government job” with the same pay if made redundant. Cabinet never approved that agreement.

When Abela, as prime minister, sacked 60 of Air Malta’s pilots to cut Air Malta’s losses, they sought legal redress based on his infamous side agreement. They won their case and were put back onto the payroll under the same conditions as Air Malta. Abela’s irregular side agreement had come back to bite him and the nation.

Robert Abela and Clyde Caruana continue to deceive. Brussels has now sounded the alarm over the exorbitant remuneration given to Air Malta CEO David Curmi that The Shift revealed.

Caruana hid Curmi’s €774,000 three-year deal for months.  He tried to camouflage it as a general consultancy contract with his ministry. Although Curmi was working for Air Malta, his salary was coming from, again, to thwart the European Commission. No wonder the Commission doesn’t believe a word Abela or Caruana says.

In June 2012, the European Commission had no problems approving restructuring state aid for Air Malta. It trusted Malta then. In its statement, the Commission had announced that “the restructuring plan adequately addresses the financial problems at Air Malta” and that it should “ensure long-term viability without continued state support”.

But, in 2013, Labour was swept to power.

Today’s Labour leader is an incompetent, untrustworthy schemer who deceived the European Commission and his people by negotiating secret deals, withholding facts, burying the truth and fabricating false realities.

And here we are. Air Malta is bankrupt. The European Commission doesn’t trust Labour and won’t countenance further state aid.

By January, Air Malta will be no more. And its workers will be redundant and free to dream big, as Robert Abela suggested.

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1 month ago

“When Abela, as prime minister, sacked 60 of Air Malta’s pilots to cut Air Malta’s losses, they sought legal redress based on his infamous side agreement. They won their case and were put back onto the payroll under the same conditions as Air Malta. “

This statement is factually incorrect. All the pilots that rejoined after getting fired are now on temporary contracts except for a couple of them with high seniority. The government disregarded this agreement it had signed with the same pilots union. There are ongoing court cases to win back arrears that were lost during covid by these pilots that were fired.

Air Malta is the only airline in the world that fired half of its pilot workforce and kept the rest employed on full salary plus take home pay bonuses even though they didn’t fly one single hour in a month. The airline didn’t even downgrade anyone from captain to first officer for those that kept their full time jobs. As a result extra simulator training was needed to keep these captains who flew both pilot ranks to operate from both pilot seats.

1 month ago
Reply to  Il-Mahmuga

il-flus jintuzaw ghal xiri ta voti u biex jithanzru l-ministri u dawk tal-qalba – hekk staqarret rosanna, and she complied fully.

Albert Beliard
Albert Beliard
1 month ago

Ouch, it’s leading to crash n’ burn.

Mayday, Mayday, we are losing altitude!

John Gaffiero
John Gaffiero
1 month ago

Every lie we tell incurs a debt to the truth. Sooner or later, that debt is paid.

Godfrey Leone Ganado
Godfrey Leone Ganado
1 month ago

I challenge once again the board of Air Malta to publish the annual audited financial statements from 2019 to 2022 together with the unaudited management accounts from 1 January 2023 to date.
I also challenge the Board to publish a statement stating whether the auditors refused to issue their report and, if so, to state the reason why.

1 month ago

Pilots get their large severance or early retirement payout from the tax payers contribution.

Joe l ghasfur
Joe l ghasfur
1 month ago

Jien kemm il darba ikritikajt lis sur Clyde, izda fuq dil bicca tal Airmalta kien ragel ghax meta ra li gej ic cajt tkellem. Shabu bil Prim l iktar wiehed kollha jifanfraw u imaxtru kemm jifilhu.
Nixtieq nkun naf ghala ivintaw kumpanija tal ajru Maltair meta kienu jafu bis sitwazjoni li l Airmalta tinsab fiha.
Jekk l europa mhux ser tiehu azzjoni wara li dawn il hallelien xebghu jisirqu mil fondi li tat biex isalva lil Airmalta, mela ghalija din korrota daqshom.
Tiftakruh lil Mintoff jghid (ahleb guz). Dak iz zmien bil problemi kollha din il kumpanija li kienet fil bidu taha kienet taghmel il miljuni. Illum dawn il hallelin, din il kumpanija li kull Malti kien jiftahar biha tinsab f dan l istat tal biki. Isthi sur Prim ministru Robert Abela.

1 month ago
Reply to  Joe l ghasfur

Trid tara jafx jisthi rob us abela.

1 month ago

First they should sack and get rid of them who are sucking the last bit of blood left in Air Malta 100 of Thousands of Euros in wages to them old gets from our Taxes, when is this Government is going to stop Bleeding Us.

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