[WATCH] Tourism Minister mum on possible subsidies granted to Ryanair

Ryaniar to base fourth aircraft in Malta from 2017 and to increase weekly flights to over 140 as it introduces six new summer routes

'You mean the minister’s left already?' David O'Brien exclaimed
'You mean the minister’s left already?' David O'Brien exclaimed
Ryanair 10 Anniversary

Ryanair’s chief commercial officer David O’Brien and Tourism Minister Edward Zammit Lewis have refused to comment on any subsidies which the low-cost airline was receiving from Malta. The two also refused to comment on the impact which the low-cost airline could have had on Air Malta and its financial woes.

Ryanair is celebrating 10 years of operations in Malta. “We do not recognise the word subsidies and I can only say that we have paid money into Malta,” O’Brien said.

“I think our continued investment in Malta shows how much money we have put into Malta.”

Zammit Lewis too would not commit himself: “I cannot confirm anything. I am not saying that we do not, but nor am I saying that we do.”

When asked by MaltaToday if he felt Ryanair operations in Malta may have added to Air Malta’s dire financial situation, O’Brien said that he did not know the national airline’s current position.

“I do not know where Air Malta is today, but I think it is in the same place it always was. But I will say this: the status quo is never an option in this business, and change is inevitable.”

O’Brien also pointed out that Ryanair competed directly with Air Malta only on a number of routes.

As to how what he thought of Air Malta’s possible partnership with Alitalia, he said the Italian airline did not feature in Ryanair’s planning.

He said that Ryaniar was projecting to be delivering 2.1 million passengers through Malta International Airport by 2017 and that the airline would be investing another €104 million for a new Boeing 737-800 which will be based in Malta, bringing the number of aircraft based in Malta up to four.

“This will make us almost Malta’s national airline,” he quipped.

O’Brien said the airline would also be increasing the number of routes accessible from Malta up to 42 and that the number of weekly flights would also increase, up to more than 140.

Six new summer routes – to Brussels Zaventem, Catania, Nuremberg, Touluse, Valencia and Vilnius – will be introduced next year. He said that Ryanair continued to support Malta’s strategy of promoting year-round tourism and that was why it was continuing to invest in Malta.

Zammit Lewis said the country needed to attract more airlines to Malta, as this also helped to make Air Malta more competitive in this scenario.

To celebrate the anniversary, Ryanair announced it was offering seats at €19.99 for travel between April and June 2017 to 14 major European cities. The offer closes at midnight on Friday, 18 November.

‘You mean the minister’s left already?’

In what appeared to be an attempt to avoid journalists, Zammit Lewis disappeared without notice leaving O’Brien alone to cut the cake.

Zammit Lewis was invited by Ryanair to celebrate Ryanair’s 10-year anniversary in Malta. But O’Brien was left asking “You mean the minister’s left already?” as he prepared to cut a celebratory cake alone.

Zammit Lewis, who yesterday told MaltaToday that updates on Air Malta will be given in the coming weeks, avoided journalists who were waiting to interview him, leaving the VIP terminal at the Malta International Airport through a secondary door.

Following the press conference, the minister was seen calling a Labour media journalist and camera crew into an adjoining room for comments, but then left from a secondary door. He had been informed beforehand that journalists would be seeking one-on-one on-camera comments.

Video is unavailable at this time.

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