Updated 5.09pm

Air Malta pilots have accused their airline’s bosses of “mismanagement” and shifting the blame of their shortcomings onto them.

In a hard-hitting statement reacting to a 17-hour delay on a 30-minute flight between Malta and Palermo, pilot’s union ALPA said that its own investigation showed that this was another case of mismanagement by the airline. 

“The captain scheduled to operate to Palermo on the morning of the flight was transferred to operate Catania instead, as the originally scheduled captain did not have the minimum legal rest requirement,” the union said. 

13 pilots sick

According to Air Malta, last Monday’s delayed flight was due to “unexpected” scheduling challenges, including a plane being struck by lightning and several crew members calling in sick. 

On Wednesday, Air Malta elaborated on that and said that 13 pilots had called in sick on a single day. 

"These unprecedented sick leave figures are clearly not in line with industry norms," it said, in a statement which slammed the behaviour of "some members of the pilot community".

ALPA accuses

ALPA accused Air Malta of regularly delaying flights as a way of ensuring crew obtained their minimum legal rest periods and said the airline needed more pilots to operate its schedule of flights, which was increased last year. 

“The shameful tactics being employed by the company in tarnishing its own pilots with frivolous claims will not affect the pilot community from continuing to carry out their duties diligently and safely as ever,” the pilots said.

Air Malta and ALPA have regularly found themselves at loggerheads in recent months. In August, the airline sued the union seeking damages for industrial action organised earlier in the summer. 

The pilots' union has said it called industrial action over breaches of its collective agreement. Air Malta has instead said that pilots were demanding guarantees for €700,000 golden handshake packages for pilots who retired early. 

On Wednesday, the airline said that it was still willing to sign a deal it had reached with ALPA back in June. 

"The reality is that ALPA are still insisting on a Government guarantee for a €700,000 early retirement payment per pilot," it added.