Air Malta has refused to give information on the technological “glitch” that caused a seating mixup with Parliamentary Secretary Chris Bonett and his family on a flight to London in December 2022, resulting in a “commotion”, the plane departing one hour late, and accusations of him using his influence to get preferential treatment.
In December 2022, as first reported by The Shift, four Air Malta passengers were removed from their seats and sat elsewhere to make way for the parliamentary secretary, his wife, and two children.
The incident saw a complaint to the Standards Commissioner Joseph Azzopardi, who concluded that this was not due to any pressure from the Labour Party politician but a result of a “technical glitch” on behalf of the airline.
The Shift asked Air Malta’s Executive Chairman David Curmi to give more information on the glitch, but he declined.
Senior Air Malta officials who spoke to The Shift on condition of anonymity raised questions over the “glitch” explanation provided by Air Malta to Azzopardi, a former chief justice, controversially appointed to the position of standards commissioner by the government, after a change in the law.
They said that while glitches do happen and impact airlines badly, they were unaware of any around the time of the Bonett incident.
“Also, when these glitches do happen, they affect hundreds of bookings and not just one case,” they added.
They added that airlines would impose hefty penalties on the software company in such cases as these glitches cause confusion and irritate customers.
“All airlines demand penalties for such customer-facing glitches,” the officials added.
In his findings, the standards commissioner found that Bonett did not book adjacent seats until three days before the flight departed, did not check in online, and only checked in on the day of the flight at the VIP Ministerial Lounge despite being on a family holiday, not ministerial business.
In addition, it came to light he used his official government email to correspond with Air Malta, a state-owned company, instead of his personal address.
Despite this, Azzopardi maintained that while it was “not good practice”, it did not lead “to any form of undue pressure being exercised.”.
This is the second time Azzopardi has investigated Bonett but absolved him of wrongdoing.
In November 2022, The Shift revealed how Bonett took his family for an overland holiday to Sicily using his official ministerial car.
While confirming the fact, the standards commissioner said that Bonett did nothing wrong as there were no rules against it.
So far, the government has ignored recommendations by the commissioner to introduce such rules.