PN to blame for Air Malta woes, tourism minister insists

After Simon Busuttil accuses government of refusing to take important decisions due to political consequences, tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis insists Air Malta is ‘stronger’ under Labour administration

Tourism minister Edward Zammit Lewis has belied Simon Busuttil’s claims that Air Malta is “slowly collapsing” under the government, claiming that previous Nationalist administrations are to blame for the ailing airline’s financial difficulties.

“Simon Busuttil, as author of the PN’s last electoral manifesto, did not even mention Air Malta. It is surprising that he now wants to secure its future when it was the Nationalist Party which put Air Malta in a coma [sic],” the ministry said in a statement. 

The ministry’s comments were made after Opposition leader Simon Busuttil said the airline was in dire straits because the government was refusing to take important decisions due to the political repercussions.

Moreover, Busuttil, who did not specify the “important and difficult decisions” that the government ought to take to save the airline, said the government had underestimated the airline’s situation, resulting in the “slow collapse” of Air Malta.

But in a reaction, the tourism ministry sought to turn the tables on the PN, insisting that while the government had “successfully overseen the main objectives” of the European Commission’s restructuring plan and was now working on the airline’s long-term strategy, previous Nationalist administrations did not come with any long-term plans.

“The government strengthened Air Malta, took important commercial decisions and implemented cost-cutting measures to make the airline more competitive. The government is now working to find a strategic partner for the airline,” it said.

The ministry also explained it was “not ruling out local investment” in an effort to save the national airline.