The CEO of Malta International Airport has stepped into the debate on Air Malta's future, stressing the importance of a "sustainable" national airline.
Alan Borg said the company that runs the airport is closely monitoring the situation amid ongoing talks between the government and the European Commission over the future of the flag carrier.
“Having a home carrier operating to primary airports to and from Malta is very important and we need to make sure we keep this home carrier,” Borg told Times of Malta.
He said a "sustainable" national airline is the most important factor for the airport.
State aid talks
In April, Air Malta Executive Chairman David Curmi confirmed that Air Malta will close to make way for a new national airline by the end of the year.
However, Finance Minister Clyde Caruana has refused to give the government's position on the issue until all discussions with the European Commission are finished.
The two sides are currently going through a last round of meetings over Malta's application to pump millions of euros in state aid to save the national airline.
Borg said no-frills budget airline Ryanair carries the most passengers, retaining the highest market share (45%), followed by Air Malta (26%).
“Ryanair carried over 2 million passengers last year, and Air Malta saw just above 1.5 million passengers,” Borg said. “These two airlines have a significant impact on the growth of the airport.”
Borg was also asked about the impact of recent Air Malta flight delays, which he said also has an impact on the operation of the airport.
“We do our best to mitigate by giving them the services we can and support we can on the ground. There's not much else we can do, as this is outside our control.”
Airport registers €38.9 million net profit in 2022
Borg was speaking on the fringes of the airport's annual general meeting in which it was confirmed that Malta International Airport registered €38.9 million net profit last year.
The figure is a significant increase from 2021 when the company registered a €7 million net profit amid restrictions due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Shareholders are to be given a dividend of €0.12c per share - the first dividend payment the company is making in three years.
In 2022, MIA recorded €88 million in total revenue, an increase of 48% on the previous year. Capital expenditure was up by 35% with MIA also increasing its headcount to a total of 355 employees.
While MIA’s market capitalisation dropped by 3%, Borg said the company is still the largest on the Malta Stock Exchange.
Drop in UK traffic
Borg noted how 5.8 million passengers passed through the airport’s gates last year, reaching some 80% of pre-pandemic levels.
Like previous years, the top markets remained Italy and the UK, followed by France, Germany, and Poland.
Borg noted a drop in traffic from UK and German markets but said this is not a “Malta phenomenon” and the trend is seen internationally.
Borg also highlighted a €2 million investment in the refurbishment of the airport’s food courts and MIA’s other expansion plans, which include its investment of €175 million over the next five years.
This includes a terminal expansion and planned alterations for the arrivals area. He said there will be a new entry for non-Schengen arrivals and an increase in the baggage reclaim area, which will increase from six carriages to eight.
'Game changer' hotel plans
The company now intends to secure a development permit to build SkyParks 2, a business center that will also feature a 90-room hotel.
Borg said the development is a “game changer” for the airport and the area.
He also mentioned the €40 million Apron X project, which will accommodate seven additional aircraft and three new stands.
6.3million passengers in 2023
Looking back at the first quarter of the year, Borg said the results show that the airport surpassed numbers and the demand for travel increased when compared to previous years.
“It was the busiest ever in terms of traffic, which is a good sign of the airport’s continued recovery from the pandemic,” he said.
He noted how more than 700,000 passengers made their way through the airport, marking a record for the company, and that the airport is gearing up for a busy summer.
“Based on traffic results achieved so far, and the current flight schedule, we expect to welcome 6.3 million passengers this year, and we hope to surpass that number.”
He said the company expects its revenues for the year to total €97 million, with a net profit to reach €29 million.