Air Malta losing €170,000 daily, Caruana says airline will die without State aid injection

Air Malta faces €62 million in losses under the force of the pandemic and the death knell to international travel

Finance minister Clyde Caruana is responsible for Air Malta
Finance minister Clyde Caruana is responsible for Air Malta

Malta’s national airline Air Malta is losing some €170,000 every day in operational losses, finance minster Clyde Caruana has told newspaper Illum.

In exclusive comments to the newspaper, Caruana said Air Malta, which had its aircraft grounded during the pandemic and was forced to make most of its pilot staff complement redundant, was facing losses of some €62 million for the entire year.

Air Malta failed to publish its 2019 accounts in March 2020, and will be expected to provide a picture of its financial health this year in its bid to win EU permission to accept State aid from the Maltese government.

“Air Malta is in a pitiful state,” Caruana said. “If before the pandemic the airline was already in a state of unhappiness, as it were, now it is has become pitiful.”

Caruana said a group of foreign experts has been tasked to assist the government in presenting the European Commission a technical report for its bid to obtain the green light to advance state aid to Air Malta.

Caruana said state aid would cost “tens of millions” in just the first year alone, and said he would present an “honest and credible” justification for the cash.

“If Brussels does not give us the green light, and I don’t see any reason for not giving it to us, Air Malta will not live. It will just have weeks to live.”

Clyde Caruana on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi

Caruana echoed previous warnings he made on Reno Bugeja Jistaqsi and Xtra, saying he had met the pilots, cabin crew and engineers unions, and that he had been blunt about the situation.

“I told them this was Air Malta’s last chance. We’ve heard of many plans for the airline, of politicians interfering, even at managerial level. Politicians can no longer take the decision for this company. I will not do this,” Caruana said.

Air Malta has already benefited from a state aid injection of €200 million back in 2012, and further capital injections from strategic asset sales to the government.

“If we want Air Malta to keep flying we cannot have political interference,” Caruana said.