The Malta International Airport CEO has warned people to expect queues this summer as the “staggering numbers” of passengers has pushed it to its “extreme limits”. 

Alan Borg told Times of Malta that passenger projections had been “completely off”, with the airport seeing record passenger numbers every month this year.

And staff have been working hard to ensure the busiest season of the year goes smoothly, with work to upgrade the airport racing to catch up with the numbers of holidaymakers. 

“Admittedly, we were probably too cautious with our numbers. So, what is happening now is our development is not in line with our passenger numbers,” he said. 

Last year, the airport handled 7.8 million passengers - a national record - and in January it said it expected to welcome 8 million in 2024. But it is set to smash past that target after several months of higher-than-expected passenger numbers. 

Results from last month show passenger numbers at 800,000 – beating the same month last year by over 70,000 people.

The airport is installing signage and assigning staff to help passengers have a reasonable experience. 

“Queues are to be anticipated,” he said. “Passengers are therefore advised to check in online if possible and not to arrive more than two hours before departure.”

Borg said the airport is at “full throttle” on planned upgrades, which will “effectively double the footprint” of the airport. 

The work includes separating and expanding the area dedicated to arrivals from outside the Schengen Area – a borderless region covering 29 European countries – and expanding MIA’s standing aircraft capacity by a third by next year. 

Borg stressed that while they were busily under way, most passengers would “hardly realise there is any development going on at all”, stressing the airport was “putting in a lot of effort” to ensure passengers were not impacted by noise or construction dust.     

Asked about overcrowding in the departures area following the interview, the airport said it “acknowledges the challenges posed by overcrowding” during peak times which it admitted had led to a shortage of seating at times. 

It said it was “devising a plan to reconfigure the seating layout” to increase capacity by next year.

The MIA CEO said the higher passenger numbers reflected a strong post-COVID recovery. New airlines have started flying from Malta and existing operators are beefing up their presence, with flight numbers increasing dramatically. 

“We have at least 14 new connections coming online, including to existing destinations,” he said, noting that flights to Poland and the UK, for example, were set to increase by 40% and 20% respectively.

MIA is coping with bigger passenger traffic than projected.MIA is coping with bigger passenger traffic than projected.

Stressing that while the airport used to see around 11 departures in the morning with another peak in the afternoon, he said it was now seeing up to 24 departures per hour on some days. With so many passengers passing through MIA and flights increasing, does Borg expect any issues with baggage handling? 

“Honestly, we did have issues in the past. [But] I think overall, we’re seeing that our handlers are gearing up for the summer,” he said.

“Although it’s hard for me to promise there will be no issues – because we are operating at our extreme limits – I feel we are well-equipped to face the summer operation.” 


But with MIA already seeing rafts of new tourists while working to upgrade its capacity, how does Borg respond to concerns of over-tourism placing a strain on the country’s infrastructure? 

“I don’t think that the sky’s the limit; Malta has to have sustainable growth. The last thing we want to do as an island is infringe on the quality of the guests that come here with the volumes coming here,” he said. 

Emphasising the importance of attracting “higher value” tourism and increasing footfall in winter months, Borg said he thought it was wrong to measure the success of the sector by tourist numbers alone. 

“It shouldn’t be double-digit growth year-on-year… we would rather grow organically than simply looking at this financial year and seeing record number of tourists without taking any notice of what’s going on around us,” he said, calling the approach “a mistake”.


On airline expansion at MIA, Borg said Easyjet had almost doubled its routes this summer with aviation newcomer Universal Air flying to nine destinations and other airlines including Air Baltic, Ryanair, ITA and Jet2 also operating new routes. 

Asked if he agreed with Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary’s assertion last year that his airline was “probably the unofficial airline of Malta”, Borg disagreed, saying while Ryanair was a “fundamental player”, accounting for almost half of the airport’s activity, he placed more importance on ownership than market share.

“KM Malta Airlines has the government as the main shareholder. So, I still veer to the shareholding side rather than on who has the largest [market] share,” he said. 

Asked about the transition from Air Malta to KM Malta Airlines, Borg said it had been “seamless”.

New border checks

The expansion works at MIA will also see it prepare to accommodate new EU border controls requiring airports to record biometric data, including fingerprints, of all arrivals from non-EU countries. 

Earlier this week, fears were raised that Malta could be suspended from the Schengen Area if it fails to have the Entry/Exit System (EES) in place by the November deadline to implement it, after lawyer Jason Azzopardi warned the project had been “completely ignored” by the police. 

Quizzed about the fears, the airport said the police were responsible for the new border system, but that it was “working closely” with the police to make sure the system was ready in time. 

Responding to questions on Monday morning, a spokesperson for the Home Affairs Ministry said a tender for the system was pending and "scheduled to be fully adjudicated in the coming days."

He said the project had encountered "challenges" after the provider for the current border controls told police "at the eleventh hour" that the system was not compatible with EES, leading the police to issue a call for a new system. 

"Following a first call in which no bids were received, a second procurement process is currently in its final stages," the spokesperson said, adding technical experts were "all hands-on-deck" to ensure the system was in place by the November deadline.

Environment and safety

With EU countries under pressure to reduce their emissions, Borg stresses that there are bigger pollutants than the airline industry, which he says accounts to 8% of total greenhouse pollution in the travel industry.

“Having said that, it doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do our best and we’re making sure that our pledge to be net zero by 2050 will be honoured,” he said, pointing to initiatives such as installing fields of solar panels at the airport.  

But with occasional fears raised over possible risks to pilots encountering glare from solar panels, is it wise to install them so close to an area where planes are taking off and landing?

“It’s more an air traffic control issue, that we need to make sure that there is no refraction with their equipment... [But] we do thorough studies on where these panels are installed to make sure that it has no impact whatsoever.”

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