Hoteliers call for sale of 75% of Air Malta to local investors

Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association say government should become a minority shareholder of Air Malta, but that its control shouldn't be ceded to foreign hands 

The Malta Hotels and Restaurants Association has called on the government to become a minority shareholder in Air Malta, while selling 75% of the national airline’s stakes to Maltese investors.

“Losing control to foreign interest of Air Malta, an airline that still produces just under 50% of passengers to Malta and is the major transport of air cargo to the island, would effectively hand over the destiny of our most important industry to non-Maltese people.

“That is something which the MHRA cannot support. Time is fast running out and decisions have to be made now.”

Their announcement follows reports that talks are underway with Turkish Airlines over a strategic alliance with Air Malta.

In a statement, the MHRA harkened back to how air travel used to be regulated by air services agreements between individual countries, basically giving a duopoly to the national carriers of the countries concerned.

“With the coming into force of the freedom of the skies, this cozy duopoly arrangement ceased as any EU carrier could fly from anywhere to anywhere within the EU,” the MHRA said. “Consequently, the legacy carriers had to change their business model or face serious financial difficulties.

“Malta, being an EU member, was no exception. Air Malta failed to change its business model and has seen increasing competition from various airlines. Air Malta had to change or face the prospect of being driven out of business. The change that has happened at Air Malta has been too little and too late.”

The association admitted that Air Malta is faced with very few options for the future and that any measures that will be implemented will definitely “change the name of the game for them”.

“The tourism industry expects and will keep supporting Air Malta management in taking the necessary decisions to ensure that our national airline keeps flying,” the MHRA said. 

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