Prime Minister excludes full privatisation of Air Malta, 'restructuring plan remains priority'

As Air Malta is set to miss its 2015 breakeven deadline, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat says priority is to carry out restructuring plan

PM: government will retain control over Air Malta • Video by Ray Attard

As national airline Air Malta is set to miss its 2015 breakeven deadline and register a €16 million loss for this year, Prime Minister Joseph Muscat categorically excluded the full privatisation of Air Malta.

While not excluding the possibility of a strategic partner at Air Malta, Muscat said the government’s basic principle was that it retained control over the company.

“There are no doubts that government has to retain its control over Air Malta. Rather than discussing the involvement of a strategic partner, we should focus on getting the house in order and see the restructuring programme completed,” Muscat said.

Air Malta went through a massive restructuring imposed by the EU after the government saved it from bankruptcy in 2010 with a €52 million loan. Two years later the EU approved €130 million in State aid on condition that the airline was restructured. Air Malta almost halved its workforce, reduced the number of planes in operation and cut capacity.

Minister for Tourism Edward Zammit Lewis also said that cost cutting at Air Malta would not include job losses or voluntary retirement schemes. He reassured that the EU’s state aid monitoring board “had no issues”.

Muscat reiterated that the government’s plan was to ensure that the restructuring plan is in place, partly blaming the Libya crisis for the airline’s substantial losses.

Air Malta’s Libya route, one of the main sources of revenues for the island’s national airline, was completely halted during the latest upheaval in the neighbouring country.

“It’s useless playing the political game that this was someone else’s plan. The plan was agreed with the European Commission as Air Malta and Malta and it is our duty as government to see it through,” he said, adding that the Libya situation “may have not been well assessed”.

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