Air Malta’s engagement of aviation consultancy firm Knighthood Global Ltd (KGL) raises questions on “collusion” between the government and the company to transfer the national airline’s top management to the newly formed company according to Opposition MP Adrian Delia.
In a Facebook post on Friday, Delia asked who would select the new airline’s Chief Commercial Officer, Chief Operations Officer, and Chief Strategy Officer, additionally asking for their salaries and backgrounds.
He questioned whether Knighthood Global, tasked with the transition to the new airline despite being unsuccessfully engaged to ‘save’ Air Malta for €2.4 million in 2021, had chosen those occupying the new airline’s key management positions.
Air Malta plc., the company which has served as the national airline for the last 50 years, will be closing down on 31 March 2024 despite multiple attempts at saving it.
The government will create a new airline to take its place, racking up at least €440 million in taxpayer costs.
In his post, Delia asked: “Is it true that [the CCO, COO, and CSO] are all foreign? Is it true that they are all being paid a €250,000 salary? Was their appointment Knighthood Global’s choice?”
Delia’s questions were raised following responses by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana to parliamentary questions by Opposition MP Paula Mifsud Bonnici, which revealed that Air Malta was engaging Knighthood Global for €200,000 per month from June 2022, apart from costs related to other consultancies.
In comments to The Shift, Delia claimed, “payments affected to Knighthood Global showing they were paid before June 2022 may mean there was collusion between government, the consultants engaged to assist Air Malta, now engaged in consulting on its demise, and the new company.”
“Was Knighthood Global involved in choosing and appointing people to key management roles in Air Malta before the decision to close down the airline? Were these people then assured they will retain their jobs?”
The Shift exclusively revealed the government’s secret plan to shut down Air Malta in August 2022, just a month after the government’s consultancy contract with Knighthood Global, tabled in parliament on Wednesday, was signed by Air Malta CEO David Curmi.
The Abu Dhabi-based company is being consulted to transition Air Malta to a new carrier despite previously and unsuccessfully being engaged in restructuring and saving the airline.
Caruana has not divulged who will be shouldering the costs, which will amount to at least €4.8 million over two years, raising questions on EU state aid violations in the case they will be doled out by the taxpayer.
James Hogan and James Rigney, the co-owners of Knighthood Global, were previously employed as CEO and CFO, respectively, of Abu Dhabi’s Etihad Airways. In 2017, they were forced to step down by the Abu Dhabi government after the airline suffered heavy losses due to the implementation of an unsuccessful expansion strategy.
It was not the only airline to fail on their watch.