Air Malta will drop the Manchester route next summer – shocking travel agents who are complaining about being told so late in the season.

The summer schedule comes into force on March 26 but a company statement indicated that the changes to the route would be made as from May.

As recently as November 30, Air Malta said it would be operating to 29 destinations including Manchester, al­though with decreased frequencies for all or part of the summer. It also said that it would be dropping its flights to Athens and Frankfurt.

The airline said yesterday it was “fine-tuning” its schedule in a “cutthroat environment” to get maximum returns.

“This is at the core of everything it should do,” the statement said.

Air Malta said it would concentrate on profitable routes, increasing flights to 12 destinations and focusing on its best performers by doubling flights at the peak of summer to Munich, Rome and Catania. It said that other routes besides Manchester would be discontinued but gave no further details.

Travel agents told the Times of Malta that Manchester was already served by several other low-cost airlines, and that the seats lost from Air Malta could easily be made up if they were to add additional weekly operations.

“However, it is rather late in the day for tour operators,” one local company with a strong UK presence said.

“It will benefit those companies that used other airlines but it is not good news to see the airline dismantle its route system one destination at a time.”

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