Closure of Libya route causing Air Malta ‘substantial losses’ every month

Airline's full financial scenario to be presented in the coming months

The closure of Libyan airports is causing Air Malta “a substantial amount of lost revenue every month”, a spokesperson for the national airline told MaltaToday.

Due to the raging conflict, Libya closed the airport in Benghazi in mid-May while Tripoli airport was closed last month after it was bombarded by militias fighting for control of the country’s largest airport.

The clashes began in July when Islamist-led militias from the city of Misrata launched a surprise attack on Tripoli airport, which had been under control of rival militias from the town of Zintan.

Citing commercially sensitive information, Air Malta would not say how much it was losing.

“Due to commercial sensitivity from a market share perspective, we cannot reveal the specific amount. However, through the introduction of the Djerba route, Air Malta is being pro-active in trying to mitigate these lost revenues,” the spokesperson said.

In a statement issued on Thursday, Air Malta CEO Louis Giordimaina said the airline’s revenues were once again under pressure, the airline finding itself at a crucial juncture. He cited increased competition and the suspension of Libya routes as the main reason.

It is yet unclear how this development is affecting Air Malta’s restructuring programme. As part of the airline’s restructuring plan, Air Malta had to develop a smaller, profit-making outfit which would register a profit of €8 million by 2016.

The spokesperson would not confirm whether the national airline was still on target to reach its pre-set goals.

“Air Malta is currently undergoing a process of external audit and the full financial scenario will be presented during our AGM in the coming months,” he said.

Air Malta has recently appointed Joseph Galea, former international marketing director for the Malta Tourism Authority, as its deputy chief commercial officer. An international call to assume the post of Chief Commercial Officer, formerly held by Philip Saunders, was also issued.

The advert was published online on Air Malta’s portal and on Flight International magazine, a top aviation publication.

“This week we were proud to announce the appointment of Joseph Galea, who will become Air Malta’s Chief Commercial Officer after a definite period of three years during which he will further his airline experience by working closely with the chosen Chief Commercial Officer in seeking new revenue generating opportunities,” the spokesperson added.

Shadow tourism minister Robert Arrigo welcomed Galea’s appointment: “Joe Galea’s appointment is excellent and what is an MTA loss will be Air Malta’s gain. His experience is invaluable and he would make an excellent chief commercial officer.”

Arrigo was however critical of Air Malta’s statement regarding the impact of the suspension of Libyan flights.

“Libya revenue routes had already hit a major bump in the past years and Air Malta never issued such a statement. The Algeria route was supposed to help and replace the foreseeable Libya crisis,” he said.

Arrigo added that questions raised in parliament on Air Malta’s performance remained mostly unanswered, with replies being “a non-answer”.

“The insistent rumours of the government offering out Air Malta to foreign companies and states make one wonder if this is the beginning of the end for Air Malta as we know it,” he added.