Pilots’ industrial action: all Air Malta planes to fly 30 minutes late

Pilots union to delay Air Malta flights by 30 minutes as of Monday over failure to get guarantee on €700,000 early retirement scheme

Air Malta has announced that its pilots have been instructed by the Airline Pilots Association (ALPA) to delay the airline’s flights by 30 minutes as of Monday, 1 July.

The industrial action comes after the government failed to offer ALPA a guarantee that an early retirement scheme that pays them €700,000 at retirement at age 55, will be retained should the airline fail.

MaltaToday on Sunday broke news of the impending strike action.

Ever since the signing of the collective agreement early last year, Air Malta has been in long and tough discussions with ALPA over interpretations of this agreement and other issues.

“The airline has tried to find solutions to each and every issue raised, however ALPA continually fails to show the goodwill necessary to ensure harmonious industrial relations,” Air Malta said this evening.

“Air Malta remains committed to resolve amicably any issues that ALPA may have whilst protecting its customers’ travel plans, its flight schedule and ensure safety of its passengers above everything else. The airline also insists that the interest of one section of the company must not undermine the sustainability and operation of the airline to the detriment of the company and all its employees.”

However, the government has said it is unable to uphold ALPA’s request since it would breach European Union rules against state aid, and warned against any industrial action.

“Unless the pilots change their behaviour, the handling of Air Malta’s growth operation will not be undertaken through the core airline, but entrusted instead to Malta MedAir,” the government-owned company which owns airline slots used by Air Malta, as well as a share in the Malta Air airline that is run by Irish low fares giant Ryanair.

“Air Malta has tried everything possible to reach agreement with the airline pilots,” the spokesperson said. “Following concessions given during the drawing up of their collective agreement – and the willingness to go beyond that to support working conditions and ensure flexibility in operations – the pilots have now requested, through ALPA, that the government guarantees their early retirement scheme in the case Air Malta should cease to exist.”

This was something the government could not do due to state aid rules. “The only resolution to such an issue has to come from within Air Malta itself. In this regard, the government cannot intervene... it’s a matter that needs to be decided upon with the company.”

The spokesperson, however, emphasised that should the pilots threaten Air Malta’s operations, the responsibility to implement the airline’s growth plans would be shifted to Malta MedAir.

“If the pilots threaten the operation of Air Malta at this crucial moment of the year and unless pilots change their behaviour, the operation of growth of the airline will not be undertaken through the core airline but through Malta MedAir – a company wholly owned by the Maltese government which was set up in January 2018.”

Such a decision would be taken with a view towards mitigating the risk to Air Malta caused by the pilots’ actions, the spokesperson underscored.

ALPA only recently reached an agreement with Air Malta to improve its pay packages, with captains earning up to €150,000 a year, and first officers paid €100,000 a year.

The collective agreement signed in January 2018 also provided guaranteed earnings for pilots, based on their best salary from the previous four years, plus additional mark-up. Pilots fly 75 hours of flying duty per month, as allowed by the European Union Aviation Safety Agency.