Passengers flying to or from several of Air Malta’s destinations may be sitting in uncleaned seats after the airline ended its cleaning contracts and cabin crew refused to do the work instead.

The cost-cutting measure was taken as the airline winds down its operations before a new company takes over as the national carrier on March 31.

Last week, staff were informed that the contract to clean the planes’ cabins in between flights had been ended for eight of Air Malta’s 15 destinations.

The destinations affected by the decision are Milan Linate, Rome, Catania, Zurich, Prague, Lyon, Berlin and Dusseldorf. The same planes are only cleaned up when they fly to any of the other seven destinations served by Air Malta.

Sources said an internal memo was sent to staff two days before the measure was due to come into force. Instead, Air Malta instructed its cabin crew to do the cleaning at the end of each flight.

We’re not cleaners and we’re not doing this

However, the Union of Cabin Crew immediately stepped in to block the move. “We are not cleaners and we made it very clear that we won’t be doing this,” a cabin crew member told Times of Malta.

The airline has ignored questions and reminders sent last week with requests for comment.

Sources said staff members were told by the airline to inform passengers who complained about a dirty plane that the airline had stopped the cleaning contract for that destination and that they were following a directive not to clean the planes.

The crew were told they could call in the cleaners only in the case of a cabin being very dirty. However, this would lead to a delay and added costs for the airline.

Air Malta is set to fly for the last time on March 30. After that, a new airline, KM Malta Airlines, will take over as Malta’s national carrier, created after the European Commission refused to accept a government request for fresh state funding for the beleaguered airline.

The newly recapitalised airline will retain Air Malta’s current fleet of eight Airbus A 320 aircraft and will fly to 17 destinations.

Industry sources said the decision on the cleaning contract will probably be extended to the new airline in its bid to cut costs and compete with other airlines already doing this – Ryanair plane cabins are cleaned up by cabin crew.

With KM Malta Airlines still in the process of recruiting cabin crew, there’s a possibility that cleaning will be included in their new job description.

A previous version misstated the date of KM Malta Airline's maiden flight as April 1

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