Updated 10.20pm 

Air Malta pilots were told not to operate flights on the airline's most recent aircraft on Friday afternoon, with their union unhappy that the plane did not allow pilots to delete recordings of cockpit conversations.

The industrial action ordered by the Airline Pilots Association was however temporarily suspended by later that evening, after Air Malta had retaliated by filing a warrant of prohibitory injunction to stop them. 

In a statement issued on Friday afternoon, Air Malta said that it had received notification of ALPA's industrial action just 22 minutes before a flight meant to be operated by its 9H-AHS aircraft was due to depart. 

The "disproportionate" decision would end up costing Air Malta more than €180,000 in compensation to passengers and related charges, the airline said.

Prohibitory injunction

It subsequently headed to court to file a warrant of prohibitory injunction against ALPA for having breached its collective agreement. 

Hours later, the airline issued a press statement announcing that the pilots' union had "temporarily suspended the industrial action". Air Malta said it now expected flights to operate normally. 

ALPA and Air Malta had agreed on a new collective agreement just months ago, following a heated stand-off between the pilots' union and airline. 

This latest clash erupted after the pilots' union discovered that the leased plane, which Air Malta added to its fleet last week, does not allow pilots to delete recordings of cockpit conversations at the end of uneventful flights. 

The union argued that this amounts to a breach of its collective agreement. 

Air Malta disagreed, calling pilots' action a "flagrant breach" of the collective agreement designed to "disrupt the holiday plans of several Maltese and tourists who were travelling on this long weekend." 

It said that it has now made arrangements with Airbus, the plane manufacturer, to reinstall the "needless functionality" allowing pilots to delete recordings of cockpit conversations. 

PD calls on CAA to intervene

Partit Demokratiku suggested that the dispute be resolved by the Civil Aviation Authority, and called on both sides to abide by whatever it decided. 

"Whilst PD understands the wish for some privacy on the pilots side, the absolute primacy of flight safety cannot be ignored," the party said in a statement issued on Friday evening.