Updated 5.20pm

National airline Air Malta will officially cease operations on Saturday night after 50 years of flying, before another airline takes over from the debt-ridden carrier. 

The last flight, KM 103, will depart from London Heathrow at 8.30pm and will land, for the last time in Malta at 12.40am on Sunday. The last flight from Malta left at 4.55pm.

The new national airline, KM Malta Airlines, will fly its maiden flight on Sunday, with minor changes expected for passengers, in reality. The new airline came into being after the European Commission refused to accept a government request for fresh state funding for Air Malta. 

In a statement on Saturday, hours before the last flight, Air Malta chairman Philip von Brockdorff expressed his gratitude to the dedicated individuals who contributed to the services provided by the airline throughout the past half a century. 

“Today, as we bid farewell to Air Malta, I extend my sincerest thanks to all the flight deck crew, cabin crew, engineers, ground staff, technical support, operations personnel, head office staff, and individuals in various interlinked roles who have been an integral part of the airline’s journey,” von Brockdorff said. 

He also expressed his gratitude to the past Air Malta chairpersons, describing them as being “instrumental” in one way or another to the operations of the national airline. 

While he bid farewell to Air Malta, von Brockdorff welcomed KM Malta Airlines, which he said will now “proudly carry the Maltese flag in our skies”.

Government cannot repeat mistakes: PN

Meanwhile, in a statement, the Nationalist Party also expressed its gratitude to all the staff who worked over the years with Air Malta and contributed to the tourism sector. 

“For many years, throughout the past 50 years, it was the airplanes of Air Malta that brought the most tourists to our country,” tourism shadow minister Mario de Marco said. 

“While the Nationalist Party wishes a happy future and prosperity for the new KM Malta Airline, we also wish that the Labour government will not repeat the same mistakes that led to the failure of our national airline.”

On social media, several staff members, past and present, shared their fond memories of their time working on the airline. 

Former Air Malta chief pilot Norman D’Amato posted several pictures of his time as Air Malta captain, some featuring Pope John Paul II during his visit in 1990, which was also the first papal flight from Malta.

"32 years of service with Air Malta, from cadet to chief pilot," D'Amato said. 

"First group of Maltese pilots, first group of Maltese First Officers, first Maltese captain to complete a flight."

Rosella Vassallo said Air Malta was “one of the best things” that happened to her. 

“I realised this soon enough the first time I went to the bank to take out my first loan. It gave us security and financial stability back then,” she said, posting pictures of herself when she was a stewardess. 

“Today I still benefit from all the wonderful people who are my friends and make up my social life who are all linked to Air Malta.”

Some also shared the Air Malta promo clip featuring tenor Joseph Calleja singing O Sole Mio, with a little help from Bernard Grech, who went on to become PN leader. 

Former Air Malta spokesman Stephen Gauci wrote: "It's with a heavy heart that I bid farewell to Air Malta. I hope that from this experience, valuable lessons have been learned."

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