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‘No breakeven for Air Malta in 2014’ – pilots’ union boss

ALPA president Dominic Azzopardi says ‘clique’ preventing Air Malta from shedding unfair third-party contracts and commissions.

Matthew Vella
8 August 2012, 12:00am
Pilot Dominic Azzopardi - still a sceptic of Air Malta's restructuring.
Pilots' union boss Dominic Azzopardi is somewhat expectedly, unimpressed by the €1.9 million rebranding of Air Malta.

But the unrelenting critic of the national airline's restructuring process claims Air Malta will not even achieve the breakeven it is hoping to get in 2014, unless it increases cargo prices and renegotiates its contracts with third parties.

"I've seen nothing positive so far - I've seen experienced people leave Air Malta, and more part-timers being introduced to the workforce," Azzopardi said.

Air Malta posted a loss of €30 million this year, after having received the European Commission's green light for a restructuring plan in which the airline must become profitable after receiving €130 million in state aid.

"Unless things change... there definitely won't be any breakeven in the near future," Azzopardi said on Favourite Channel's Reporter.

Pilots and Air Malta's management remain at loggerheads over the restructuring of the national airline - recently the airline said pilots wanted an increase in their annual salaries, while pilots say they are right in demanding an increase after having frozen their salaries for three years in a bid to assist the airline restructuring.

"[CEO] Peter Davies is only scratching the surface of some of the main issues, such as the cheap cargo prices, or the money we pay to MIA and the commissions we pay the airport on fuel and cargo - which doesn't even pass through MIA but through the old terminal; or the prices for tour operators. Air Malta is still the same: subsidising the tourism industry with the hotels we fill up, and manufacturing with our cheap cargo prices," Azzopardi said.

Azzopardi claimed the national airline needs to renegotiate the cost of its fleet and money it pays out to Malta International Airport to rent the new airline headquarters at the Skyparks business centre, as well as make cargo a central part of its profit-making business.

"In three years' time we have to renegotiate the lease of our fleet. This will be an opportunity for Air Malta to evaluate whether we need to fly bigger aircraft and reduce our flying frequency. Air Malta pays €20 million alone in charges to pass over one flying zone to the other. We even pay the Maltese government these charges."

One of his gripes was the fact that Air Malta has not extended its route network to parts of Africa, where the opportunity may exist of flying larger aircraft as part of a regional hub to the rest of the continent. "We have a golden opportunity to increase our frequency to Libya, and even lease our aircraft and pilots to Libya - we can really cream the market by taking over the transport of merchandise."

But Azzopardi claims his thinking has not been taken on board by Air Malta. "They say their schedule is already committed."

"As pilots we did offer our own ideas to the airline, and we think that some people are earning good money from the services rendered to the airline: the World Aviation Group's call-centre, the software Air Malta uses, the agents who charge commissions to the airlines... all these people have planted their roots firmly, and nobody wants to challenge them.

"There is a clique of people that nobody can stand up to, and they are about to kill the goose that lays the golden eggs," Azzopardi charged.

Azzopardi, whose pilots' union boycotted the recent Air Malta rebranding launch, said the €1.9 million job to Futurebrand should have been given to a Maltese agency. "If we are losing €30 million, I'd say the rebranding certainly was not timely... I expected a public tendering competition for a Maltese operation, not a foreign outfit."

He also poured cold water over the Air Malta livery. "Who books flights just because of the new colours of an airline?"

When it seemed he was referring to Air Malta's management as being incapable of running the airline, Azzopardi said that the airline was losing money on fuel hedging costs. Air Malta chief executive Peter Davies has in the past claimed he saved the airline €3.5 million when he changed the company's fuel-hedging policy. "I know we hedged fuel at the USD110 this year," Azzopardi replied. "Now it's down to USD98, so should we ask Davies for the money back?"

Matthew Vella

After graduating in anthropology he joined MaltaToday...
Alan Muscat
Boy, the standard of journalism in this country is terrible. A man who continually states that information is not shared with him is given all this space to tell us what he thinks is going on. I don't think MaltaToday or the Maltese people have understood that ALPA is a separate company to Air Malta, not a part of it. They do not have the same agenda or same desired outcome. Air Malta wants to be successful as a business and for the Islands, while ALPA wants more money for its pilots. Why would Air Malta ever reveal details of contracts with suppliers to another company? If it did tell ALPA about the MIA contract, then MIA would be very angry as Vodafone and Ryanair and others would want to renegotiate. Why are crazy assertions not challenged - cargo goes through the old terminal (correct) and "doesnt even pass through MIA" - so it just magically appears at 1000ft somewhere over Gozo? MIA is more than just a terminal. ALPA have not shown any financial acumen or intelligence, and until the country accepts that their agenda is simply richer pilots and not anything that would benefit the country, then there is only one company trying to kill the golden goose. Stop giving this man unchallenged airtime!
Joe Borg
The clique is strangling a national asset to death. Then they came with some patriotic bullshit on why we should use AirMalta. The fleecing of AirMalta could be hidden as long as they fleeced us Maltese in turn - holding us captive on this island - reducing our ability to travel and do business - to add further damage to our economy. Off course - they could not make enough flights to Brussels - the all aboard loyal-nationalist gravy train to Brussels - all expenses paid, complements of the Maltese tax payer. If the patient can't be cured from the cancer of political corruption (clique) - then the sooner the patient is dead, the better. We already pay more to fly from Malta to abroad then from abroad to Malta ... believe you me, AirMalta is not doing us any favours.
MICHAEL LUNGARO
You're always saying that cargo is cheap, and it should be adjusted similar to other airlines, I can contradict this reasoning because when I take my pet dog with me to Bulgaria it always cost me nearly 300e Single way, the pet's weight is 8kg + 7kg cage (EU rules)total 15kg while my ticket return is 255e including the famous administrative charges, (which was introduced recently)
GRACE PAVIA
ALPA is absolutely correct with regards to a "clique" that is undermining the viability of KM. There is much money involved that these bloodsuckers will not let go. For example what would one say if one is told that in earlier times over half of all smelling items were provided by just one supplier. Had the bulk of profit been diverted to KM, then it would have been OK for a supplier to earn an indecently large commission, but it was not. Would managers throw light on these matters, which would be easily corroborated by records. Would any of the top managers inform the taxpayers how much was saved from renegotiated contracts for the supply of goods and (especially) services? How do KM's cargo charges compare with others and what is KM's share?
COOL BREEZE
the only colour that counts is the colour of money and the main colour we want to see is Black--and this at the bottom of Air Malta's annual balance sheet.How is this continuous bleeding dry by the MIA of our national airline and cash-cow of the MIA being allowed?
Nigel Lawrence
That bloody, unwelcome, English cuc has only the intention to take as much as he can for himself and run Airmalta into the dust. All thanks to GonziPN.
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