As a frequent visitor to lovely Malta over the last 10 years - sometimes travelling with Air Malta - may I comment on the leader of August 15.

I write as an experienced competitive intelligence consultant whose work is to help organisations gain or regain competitiveness.

Faced with increasing competition, Air Malta must achieve both competitiveness and profitability. At the moment, despite improvements in performance, Malta's flag carrier is doing neither. The only realistic measures of performance are relative to competitors' performance and not just relative to last year's performance.

Making less of a loss is simply not enough and may largely only reflect a rising total market.

Particularly if at the same time market share is being lost in crucial market segments.

If Air Malta were a commercial operation, it would go out of business or be taken over.

Instead, every employee of Air Malta receives a personal subsidy from the taxpayer of nearly Lm2,000 a year.

Air Malta must become more competitive in core areas of its marketplace if it is to have any long-term future.

The only really important tests of how well Air Malta is performing involve systematic and honest benchmarking of the airline against key competitors in areas that matter to the fare-paying public.

Winning brownie points, while market share plummets and losses continue - albeit at a lower level - is in danger of being nothing better than "fiddling while Rome burns".

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