Malta Air vows to bring tourist volumes to Malta

Ryanair subsidiary Malta Air aiming to bring 17,000 tourists to Malta each week in August, low-cost carrier’s CEO Diarmuid O’Conghaile says

Malta Air CEO Diarmuid O'Conghaile says carrier is positioned to be the airline which brings back passenger numbers to Malta
Malta Air CEO Diarmuid O'Conghaile says carrier is positioned to be the airline which brings back passenger numbers to Malta

Malta Air is positioning itself as the airline which will restore tourist volumes to Malta amid the new COVID-19 reality, the head of the Ryanair subsidiary has said.

Malta Air CEO Diarmuid O’Conghaile said the airline would deliver growth for Malta, in a situation where other carriers had cut back their capacities.

In August, it is projecting to bring 17,000 tourists to Malta weekly – over half of last year’s figures – while, by the summer of 2021, it hopes it will carry a million passengers to the island. “At this stage, we are confident that Malta Air is the airline which can restore passenger traffic volumes to Malta,” O’Conghaile said.

“All other airlines are cutting their capacity, including Air Malta, EasyJet, Lufthansa, Air France and KLM. On the other hand, we’re committed to retaining capacity, and we’re the ones who can deliver growth for Malta.”

Malta Air CEO Diarmuid O'Conghaile
Malta Air CEO Diarmuid O'Conghaile

O’Conghaile gave his comments in an interview with sister newspaper BusinessToday, due to be published in full on Thursday.

Malta Air launched in June 2019 as a Ryanair subsidiary based in Malta to incorporate within it all Ryanair routes to and from Malta, to add new routes and to increase its fleet.

While Malta Air’s capacity was currently at 40% due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the carrier was still serving almost all its routes. “We’re back to 40% capacity in July, with 70% expected in August – but we’re still serving 90% of all routes. Our coverage of routes is very close to what it was, but the frequencies are a bit less. We’re currently serving 44 routes arriving into Malta, and this will increase to 50 next month.”

Cheap tickets to fill planes

Despite the catastrophic impact of the pandemic on the aviation industry, O’Conghaile said the figures made him cautiously optimistic.

Malta Air and Ryanair’s strategy for filling seats remains the lowering of ticket costs. “I think cautiously optimistic would describe it well. Demand has taken a hit, and it will take some time to correct itself. But we are being positive in two ways.

“Firstly, we’re maintaining our capacity and our employment. Secondly, we’re pricing cheaply in order to boost traffic. There is still some way for the aviation to go in order to recover previous profitability, but we’re focused on that path and we have the strength to withstand the crisis.”

O’Conghaile said plans to lay off around 60 cabin crew and pilots in May have been avoided, with the staff retained on a pay cut.

17,000 passengers in August

Demand, O’Conghaile said, was also returning. “We’re seeing strong bookings into Malta, from a range of different areas, including the UK… Through Malta Air and the Ryanair group, next month we will be bringing in around 17,000 passengers to Malta every week. That’s just over half the number we were bringing in August 2019,” he said.

“Our target for summer 2021 – which lasts from April to October – is to carry around one million arriving passengers into Malta. This is roughly the number we brought to the island in 2019 – we want to equal this. And doing this will take cheaper fares – this is what we intend to do.”