Maltese gets ditched as job requirement by new national airline

Controversy ensues after the new national airline drops Maltese language as an employment requirement • David Casa: ‘Where are the Labour MEPs now?’

No takeoff for Maltese language on new national carrier as KM Malta Airlines drops Maltese as job requirement for cabin crew
No takeoff for Maltese language on new national carrier as KM Malta Airlines drops Maltese as job requirement for cabin crew

The first flight of KM Malta Airlines took off on Sunday but the new national carrier has quietly dropped the Maltese language as an employment requirement.

This will be the first time in 50 years that the national carrier will have cabin crew who are unable to speak Maltese, sister newspaper Illum reported on Sunday.

KM Malta Airlines was set up by the government to replace Air Malta, which had to be folded up after the European Commission denied permission for State aid.

Sources close to the Finance Ministry told Illum that the decision to drop knowledge of Maltese as a requirement was agreed with the union representing cabin crew.

Previously, cabin crew engaged with Air Malta were required to demonstrate proficiency in talking, writing and reading in English and Maltese.

The decision to drop Maltese as a requirement has raised eyebrows in several circles not least after the government and Labour MEPs recently raised hell over the European Parliament’s inability to provide interpreters for Maltese.

In a Facebook post, PN MEP David Casa was unforgiving: “A Maltese airline that discarded the Maltese language. I eagerly await the theatrics of Labour MEPs in front of the concerned ministry.”

The Nationalist Party has called for the decision to be revoked. “The national airline should embrace the national and official languages,” the PN said.

Maltese is the national language, while both Maltese and English are considered official languages.

Independent EP election candidate Arnold Cassola also noted the inconsistency with flag carriers of other European countries. Under the heading ‘Mind your language’ – reference to the satirical British comedy series by the same name – Cassola said ITA, the Italian airline that was created after Alitalia’s demise, requires its staff to speak Italian; Lufthansa requires theirs to speak German, Air France to speak French, and Iberia to speak Spanish.

“But we special, ħi: No Maltese required,” Cassola added.

But the new airline’s decision, which is probably motivated by the possibility of recruiting foreign staff on lower wages, also jars with the government’s direction in other sectors of the economy.

Earlier this year, Health Minister Jo-Etienne Abela announced that a skills card will be introduced for foreign workers employed as carers with elderly people that will require them to learn basic Maltese phrases.

In February, a Maltese language course was unveiled for carers as St Vincent de Paul residence for the elderly.