Public standards commissioner sides with Bonett, Air Malta over seats ‘commotion’

The Commissioner for Public Standards, Joseph Azzopardi, has accepted an explanation given by Air Malta that it was not preferential treatment but rather a technical “glitch” that resulted in passengers being moved from their seats to make way for Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bonett and his family.

Following a complaint and investigation, Azzopardi concluded, “There was nothing on his part that contributed to what happened.”

The Shift previously reported that passengers on an Air Malta flight to London were told to vacate their pre-booked seats to make way for “a VIP” who would be boarding the flight. The VIPs were Bonett, his wife Maxilene, and their two children.

As disgruntled passengers complained and protested, Air Malta staff told them the junior minister had insisted his family all be seated in the same row. The disruption resulted in the plane departing one hour late.

The incident led to outrage and calls for him to be investigated for using his position to gain preferential treatment and violating the Code of Ethics for Ministers and Parliamentary Secretaries.

The Air Malta seats debacle

In January 2023, a few weeks after the incident took place, independent MEP candidate Arnold Cassola made a formal complaint to the Commissioner of Public Standards, alleging that Bonett had abused his position.

Bonett, in his communications with the commissioner, denied any preferential treatment. In his version of events, he booked four seats next to each other, but when they arrived at the airport, they were given boarding passes with separate seats.

Bonett said he then requested that his family be seated together “as he had previously booked” and was given new boarding passes that accommodated his request.

He added he and his family were the first to board the plane, claiming he even offered to give up his seat to one of the passengers who had been moved from theirs, accusing them of causing a “commotion”.

He also denied exerting any pressure on Air Malta staff.

“At no time did I ask or exert any form of pressure for me or my family to be given any preferential treatment at the expense of other passengers. I only asked to be given what I had booked, and anyway, I gave up my seat to resolve the issue that arose.”

Bonet then supplied the commissioner with a screenshot of his initial booking, showing seats next to each other.

The commissioner then contacted Air Malta’s Executive Chairman David Curmi, and instead of asking what had happened, which would allow an independent explanation of events,  Bonett’s version of events was presented with a question as to whether they were correct.

“Is it true that at Malta airport, Dr Bonett and his family members were given boarding passes with seats that were not next to each other, even though he had booked seats next to each other?” reads one of the questions.

Curmi responded, stating that Bonett had not initially booked seats next to each other, but this was remedied three days before the flight via the Manage My Booking facility on the Air Malta website.

However, according to a “technical glitch” in the system, the places were not reflected when printing the boarding passes.

The chairman continued that Bonett did not check in online but instead did when he arrived at “the ministerial hall of Malta Airport”.

After receiving his boarding passes and realising the seats were not adjacent, he approached the agent in the ministerial hall and asked if he could be assigned four seats in the same row.

The agent obliged, relocating a couple and two solo travellers to placate Bonett.

Bonett confirmed to the commission that he used the ministerial hall and was not accompanied by a representative, an irregular move as such facilities are meant to be used for official travel, which the trip to London was not.

Furthermore, Bonett used his government email when communicating with Air Malta, which is only supposed to be used for official matters.

‘I didn’t know’

He then claimed he did not know his previous booking had not been recognised, that the plane was full and that other passengers had to be moved to honour his reservation. Bonett said if he knew this, he would have considered taking a different flight or cancelling the holiday altogether.

The commissioner states that Bonett insisting on having adjacent seats for family members “does not amount to an effort to obtain favourable treatment because he booked these seats in advance” and “It was a flaw in the company’s system that led to the disagreement that arose.”

As for Bonett using his government email when communicating with Air Malta, the commissioner said it is “not good practice” but did not lead “to any form of undue pressure being exercised”.

However, he admitted, “it would have been different if a private email account had been used.”

The Air Malta debacle came just days after Bonett was found to have used his official taxpayer-funded car to take his family on holiday to Sicily.


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3 months ago

One has to raise the question about what is the Standards Commissioner being blackmailed with because it is obvious that they have him by the balls and squeezing each time an investigation crops up.

3 months ago

The Standards Commissioner has the Standards of Muscat renting his car to himself and opening bottles of Petrus during the Birthday celebration in the presence of Yurgen Fench , and then telling the gullible commissioner that Muscat did not take the Petrus Bottles but were left in the PM office.

saviour mamo
saviour mamo
3 months ago

There he is a Commissioner of Standards that sides with the arrogance of the ministers.

Albert Mamo
Albert Mamo
3 months ago


D M Briffa
D M Briffa
3 months ago

Bonett’s communication using his government e-mail did not lead “to any form of undue pressure being exercised”, according to the Standards Commissioner. Really? How does he reach that conclusion? I’m sure many people would disagree.

Emanuel Curmi
Emanuel Curmi
3 months ago

This article says more on the standards of the Standards Commissioner than this farce on an Air Malta flight. After all we ALL know what really took place on board the aircraft and the glitch is nothing else than a politician exerting pressure to enjoy privileges at the somebody else’s expense.

Last edited 3 months ago by Emanuel Curmi
2 months ago
Reply to  Emanuel Curmi

Well there are high and low standards right?

3 months ago

Pictured is another parasite that will be looking for a new job after the next GE.

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