The government will hand the European Commission an 'honest and credible' plan to allow the country to help Air Malta as it makes losses of over €170,000 daily just to operate its aircraft, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana said on Sunday.

Speaking on One TV, the minister said that unfortunately, over the years, the commission was told things about the airline which were not carried out. When that sort of thing happens, people start not to believe you, he said. 

He said state aid for Air Malta just this year would need to run into 'tens of millions' of euro.  It was important to keep the airline going, he said, but one had to be very careful how to use taxpayers' money. 

He stressed that what is promised to the commission needs to be carried out. Malta has to show it is credible and honest and then the commission will help the country do what it needs to do to keep the airline, he said.

Air Malta will only have a few weeks to live before running out of cash if the European Commission does not allow state aid, he warned. 

Commission has allowed state aid to various airlines 

Over the past months the European Commission has given the green light for state aid to various airlines in view of the slowdown caused by COVID-19.

They included €120 million in state aid by the Greek government to Aegean Airlines, €290 million by the Belgian government to Brussels Airlines and €7 billion in French aid to Air France.

Low price airline Ryanair has said it is contesting some of the state aid decisions in the European Court. 

Under normal circumstances, governments are forbidden to give financial support to private, or even state entities, to ensure a level playing field among all economic players.

However, this restriction has been temporarily lifted by the commission in the wake of the devastating effect that the COVID-19 outbreak had on certain sectors like travel and aviation.

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