Updated | Uncertainty over Air Malta's future shows EU’s lack of trust in government, Grech says

Bernard Grech believes the government's credibility is what led to Air Malta's uncertain future • ADPD blames both major parties for the 'downfall of Air Malta'

Updated at 1:38pm with ADPD statement

The future of Air Malta is uncertain as the European Union Commission is unwilling to provide up to €300 million in state aid because it does not believe Robert Abela’s government like it did a Nationalist one back in 2012, the Opposition Leader believes.

“We had a plan, agreed upon with the EU Commission because at the time we had a government that was respected and believed by the Commission,” Bernard Grech said on party-owned NET FM.

MaltaToday reported last month that the Maltese government was planning to set up an alternative national airline to replace Air Malta.

The new airline would be rebuilt from scratch, with new conditions of employment in which employees, most notably airline pilots, will be expected to mirror the same conditions as in rival and competing airlines in terms of flying hours.

Under EU regulations, it is not permitted for companies to receive state aid more than once within a span of 10 years. 

The last time Air Malta was granted a state aid injection of €52 million was in 2012, but faced financial difficulties once again in 2018 and subsequently requested permission for state aid in 2021. 

Additionally, EU state aid regulations mandate that companies receiving monetary support must become financially sustainable within a decade, which Air Malta has been unable to achieve.

Speaking on Saturday morning, Grech argued that had his party has been in power, the airline's restructuring and state aid plan would have been successful. 

He raised apprehensions regarding the future of Air Malta and stated that it was unacceptable for individuals, including Air Malta employees, to be unaware of the situation. 

Grech added that the sole source of information about the airline's future was newspapers, which is inadequate. 

He also cautioned that if Air Malta ceases operations, Malta would have to depend on foreign-owned airlines for international connectivity.

READ ALSO: Air Malta chief confirms airline will be replaced by end of year

ADPD blames both major parties for the 'downfall of Air Malta'

The downfall of Air Malta is a clear demonstration of how Maltese politics is ruled by favouritism, according to ADPD Chairperson Carmel Cacopardo.

Speaking outside Parliament, he criticized both the Labour and Nationalist parties for treating the airline as a source of money for decades. 

Cacopardo, speaking outside parliament in Valletta, argued that there was never any political will for Air Malta to operate independently without political meddling. 

He claimed that millions of euros in aid had been wasted, effectively funding the clientelism that led to the airline's demise. 

He accused Labour of pretending to save the airline when it was actually preparing to shut it down, and the Nationalist Party of choosing to exploit Air Malta's history of clientelism. 

"Political clientelism is a direct result of a parliament completely dominated by two parties. They have consistently united to oppose electoral reform because they know that a pluralistic parliament would mean the end of their nepotistic and clientelist politics," Cacopardo concluded.

ADPD Secretary General Ralph Cassar said that both parties had never objected to using Air Malta for their own political purposes. 

“Air Malta has been plagued by this nepotistic and clientelist political interference since its inception. PLPN have milked Air Malta dry. It was their cash-cow in their respective bids to cling to power. We are all victims of these shameful PLPN practices, because our public funds and taxes have been used to buy votes through the Air Malta ‘cow’,” Cassar said.