Updated | PN asks for clarity over Air Malta

Opposition tourism spokesperson Robert Arrigo called for the government to reveal its plans for the national airline

Shadow tourism minister Robert Arrigo has demanded transparency on government plans for Air Malta, following comments from Prime Minister Joseph Muscat that the airline will be divesting itself of various units.

"Muscat said that his new plans for Air Malta are similar to his plans for Enemalta. We want to know which parts of the company he plans to sell, to whom, and when he plans to sell them," Arrigo said.

"Air Malta is crucial to the whole population, particularly its employees. The government shouldn't experiment with people like this."

"We also want to know why the government is backtracking on a restructuring plan that the previous government had come up with and that the European Commission had described as a plan that would help Air Malta in the long term," Nationalist MP Marthese Portelli added.

"Muscat himself said back in April, that that restructuring plan was in progress. Why is he backtracking now? The government is playing with fire."

Arrigo criticized the government over 'vindictive, high-level transfers' at Air Malta. "17 flight attendants were needlessly promoted to flight managers at an annual cost of €250,000; 300 new employees were hired this year alone, and workers' meetings are no longer held. Air Malta employees often have to go to the General Workers' Union for information on their own company."

Arrigo played down claims that Air Malta's financial precariousness was down to the Libyan conflict and competition from other airlines. "The Libyan crisis had started under a PN government and flights to libya were closed back then too, without Air Malta suffering. Competitiveness isn't a new phenomenon either."

Government reaction

In a statement, the tourism ministry said that Air Malta was focused on the airline’s restructuring plan, which is now eyeing profits for 2016.

“The Opposition is not aware of basic facts about the airline and are in no position to be politically responsible for it,” minister Edward Zammit Lewis said.

“When Robert Arrigo was being asked about the debt incurred by Air Malta under the former administration, the shadow minister could not reply. Arrigo is not even aware that a new CEO, Philip Micallef, has taken over. He has no credentials to talk about Air Malta.”

 

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