Air Malta confirmed today that its flight to Manchester last Friday returned to base to pick two passengers who had been left at the gate. The incident cost the airline €2,000.

The airline had originally said the flight turned back as “a security precautionary measure following a discrepancy in the number of passengers and baggage on board” but the Times of Malta said on Tuesday that the real reason for the return was to pick up to stranded passengers.

Air Malta said today it had finalised an investigation into the incident, which concluded that two passengers, a Chinese and a Brit, had been inadvertently left at the gate.

The investigation, conducted by Air Malta’s head of safety and compliance and chief officer corporate services, found that some processes were inadequate and others were not followed.

“The necessary corrective actions, both from a process perspective as well as a human resource perspective, have started today,” it said.

The investigative team interviewed the 11 Air Malta personnel on duty for the flight and various reports from all sections concerned were reviewed.

Air Malta said it would be invoking disciplinary procedure against a number of employees and would apply the recommended corrective measures regarding its policies for such incidents not to be repeated.

It said that in line with collective agreements, it would not name and shame or dismiss the employees involved. It would also not be publishing the investigation report as it contained sensitive security information "that is not for public consumption".

“However, the report is being passed on to the aviation regulator and the ministry responsible for Air Malta.

“The airline commits itself to implementing the report’s recommendations without hesitation, prioritising safety, security and passenger well-being.

“We have taken this incident extremely seriously. A thorough investigation was concluded within five days and the corrective action required will be applied immediately.

"We appeal to all those involved, including unions and staff, to collaborate with Air Malta on the actions being taken in everyone’s interests,” CEO Philip Micallef said.