Updated | 4.5 million passengers expected at Malta Airport in 2015

MIA passenger traffic up by almost 70% since 2005, minister says record year expected on all fronts

Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, MTA chairman Gavin Gulia and MIA CEO Alan Borg
Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis, MTA chairman Gavin Gulia and MIA CEO Alan Borg

Malta International Airport is expecting to host at least 4.5 million passengers by the end of the year, an increase of more than 200,000 over 2014 – equivalent to over 1,100 Boeing 737 aircraft at full capacity.

In his first ever press conference since he became CEO six months ago, Alan Borg noted the way the markets had developed over these past ten years.

"Passenger growth had increased by 69% when compared to figures in 2005," Borg said explaining that e top markets from the UK, Italy, Germany and France had seen the greatest increases, with 29%, 20%, 14% and 6% respectively.  

He said that the increases in various markets had been a result of various initiatives the airport had taken including securing better connectivity, both through new destinations for existing airlines, and through securing more airlines flying to Malta.

Borg added that among the efforts for the future, to continue increasing visits to the island, was MIA's sponsorship of a documentary film about the Marine Protected Area around Filfla.

Speaking at the event, Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis praised this effort and said that this would attract a particular niche market.

"Diving is fast becoming one of the greatest attractions of Malta and Gozo," he said.

Denying any allegations of over saturation in the winter months, Zammit Lewis said that the only issue to be dealt with this popular period was the geographic distribution of tourists from overcrowded areas.

"The total number of flights that landed and took off from MIA during the six months under review increased by 4%, signifying an increase of more than 290 one-way flights over the same period of last year. This increase in flights in turn led to an increase in available seats of 3.7%, equivalent to over 46,000 more one-way seats floated on the Malta route compared to last year," he added.

Borg added that most airlines operating in Malta had seen an increase in passengers, with the exception of those operating in Libya and Russia, where there used to be some 60,000 and 10,000 passengers respectively.

Zammit Lewis added that the crisis in Libya had cost Air Malta in particular some 900,000 every month.

"These are naturally circumstances we could not have foreseen, but the company managed to register positive results depite the situation."

Discussing Russia, Zammit Lewis said that he hoped that the situation could be resolved soon as Russia presented a very strong and promising market.

Zammit Lewis added that Air Malta's capacity will be increasing during the winter months and that the rented aircraft would be used more effectively.

Borg also said that in the future the airport was looking forward to continuing to focus in untapped markets such as Scandinavian and Eastern European countries, as well as recovering traffic from the Spanish market, which had reached its peak in 2011, only to drop significantly in recent years. The Eastern European market had already seen a 353% increase since 2005, which was a cear indication of the good practises in tapping into new markets.

"We will also be exploring connectivity opportunities both in Portugal and in other regional airports across continental Europe."

Speaking about the success of the Cruise and Fly operation, Borg said that this was one of the only methods the country could use to secure visits without facing saturation in accomodation spots, as the system implied people flying into Malta to set off on their cruise immediately after.

Giving its updated mid-year forecast, MIA said today it was experiencing record passenger numbers month after month and successfully increasing traffic in the non-peak months.

A comparison with the figures registered 10 years ago shows that traffic in Q1 (January, February and March) grew by 58 per cent since 2005, and the combined growth for both Q1 and Q2 registered an increase of 69 per cent.

The latest passenger traffic figures for June show an increase of 8.2 per cent compared to last year. Meanwhile, traffic between January and June increased by 6.9 per cent over 2014.

The increase in traffic was in part a result of seat capacity rising by 4.9 per cent this June compared to the same month last year. Similarly, the average seat capacity from January to June was up 3.7 per cent compared to the same period of 2014.

Besides a larger number of seats available, airlines flying to and from Malta also managed to fill their aircraft more consistently, with seat load factor hitting 81.3 per cent in June compared to 78.8 per cent last year. For the period January to June, seat load factor hit an average of 77.9 per cent compared to 75.6 per cent registered in the first six months of last year.

Meanwhile, cargo and mail have increased by 4.5 per cent in June compared with last year, but registered an overall drop of two per cent for the period January to June.

Malta’s top market remains the UK, with 580,107 passenger movements in the first six months of 2015, followed by Italy (396,427) and Germany (274,954).

After registering such remarkable growth in these markets, MIA’s strategy is to continue to focus on the more untapped regions around Scandinavia and Eastern Europe, including Russia. Strategic objectives also include recovering traffic from Spain and exploring opportunities for connectivity to Portugal, Borg said.

For the first time, Scandinavian Airlines and Vueling will extend their operation into winter whilst Lufthansa, Turkish Airlines, Ryanair and Wizzair will be increasing their weekly flights.

 In 2015, MIA invested €2 million in the expansion of the non-Schengen area, €950,000 in runway, apron and taxiway improvements and another €970,000 in high voltage network re-organization and back-up standby power generators.

More in Business News