Although it will be closed down, Air Malta, the country’s troubled national carrier, is still accepting bookings and payments via its website for flights scheduled well after its official closing date on 30 March 2024.
Airmalta.com, the carrier’s official website, is accepting bookings from customers beyond its last day of operations at the end of March next year.
The yet-to-be-named new airline was announced on Monday during a press conference by Prime Minister Robert Abela and Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, who unveiled plans for the so-called “seamless” transition, which is set to cost taxpayers €440 million.
In August 2022, The Shift exclusively revealed the government’s backup plan for Air Malta, making it clear that the closure of the national airline was imminent.
As part of the transition, Caruana and Abela said flights booked with Air Malta will continue to be honoured until 30 March. Subsequent flights will be cancelled and refunded.
Air Malta bookings for travel on or after 31 March will not be transferred to the new airline.
The Shift asked why the website still allows bookings and the support agent said, “That’s just how it is. The website is wrong. You’ll book for nothing.”
The agent confirmed bookings would not be transferred and customers “should wait until December” to book with the new airline.
The new airline has not yet been officially named, as the government is expected to rush a tendering process to buy the ‘Air Malta’ brand and livery from another government-owned company, IP Holding Ltd.
Air Malta plc. sold the ‘Air Malta’ name to IP Holding in 2019 as part of a creative accounting exercise by disgraced former tourism minister Konrad Mizzi for the airline to declare profits after years of losses.
Similarly, slots for the popular London Heathrow and Gatwick airports had also been sold to another government-owned airline, Malta Med Air.
The Shift reported how the European Commission confirmed the government’s name, airport slots, and other assets may not be directly transferred, being subject to a competitive tendering process, making for a less than smooth landing for the new airline.
The €440 million transition consists of up to €90 million in costs paying off early retirement schemes for pilots and cabin crew, €300 million in the purchasing of assets, which will include three planes and a hangar, and €50 million in working capital.
In 2019, when Air Malta plc. published its last set of accounts, then-tourism minister Konrad Mizzi publicly announced that accounts prepared by PWC had shown that Air Malta had made a profit of €1.2 million.
However, Minister Clyde Caruana said Air Malta has been generating losses for the past 20 years.
Previously, both current Prime Minister Robert Abela and his father, George, served as Air Malta consultants to Mizzi.