Air Malta is eyeing longer-haul services such as flights to New York, Toronto and Mumbai, but rather than take the risk of acquiring a wide-body aircraft it is studying the possibilities offered by the new extended-range Airbus A321, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi said on Sunday.

Speaking on One TV, Dr Mizzi said one of his focuses in the tourism sector is to improve connectivity, something which is also needed by the financial sector.

Malta airport, he said, already offered more connections to European destinations than London Heathrow, although it needed to increase frequencies.

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi speaking on Sunday.Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi speaking on Sunday.

Over the medium term, he said, he would like to see connections extended to more airports in the Middle East and Africa, including sub-saharan Africa, feeding traffic to Air Malta. The same applied for Scandinavia, which was under-served from Malta.

But one also needed to dream longer range and study the possibility of services to New York, Toronto and Mumbai, which were important for tourism. The North American market already yielded 45,000 tourists to Malta, which was just a start, he said. 

Rather than take the risk of acquiring a wide-body aircraft, Air Malta was considering the possibilities stemming from the new extended range Airbus A321neo aircraft, which is slightly longer and with more comfortable seating than Air Malta's current planes, Dr Mizzi said.

As part of the plans for increased traffic, he added, Malta airport was carrying out improvements to the runway and it had been given land by the government for more aircraft apron space. The airport terminal would be extended, as would its car park.