Government-owned Malta MedAir could step in and take over Air Malta’s growth plan if issues between the national airline and its pilots are not resolved, Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi said on Monday.
“We’re keeping our options open,” Dr Mizzi said in a brief video statement he uploaded to Facebook.
One of those options, the minister suggested, was to use government-owned Malta MedAir to implement growth plans which would see Air Malta expand into long-haul flights to the Americas and Asia.
“We want Air Malta to grow,” Dr Mizzi reiterated in his video message. “But if it is not in a position [to do so]… the option is there. The government’s objective must be reached”.
“We love Air Malta and are going to keep it alive, but our economy is more important,” he added.
Air Malta pilots began delaying flights by 30 minutes on Monday morning as part of industrial action ordered late on Sunday.
The airline filed an injuction – which was accepted by the courts – to temporarily halt the industrial action.
Dr Mizzi has slammed the pilots for making “ridiculous” and “surreal” demands concerning their early retirement schemes.
According to the minister, pilots are demanding guarantees that golden handshake payments reaching up to €700,000 if they choose to retire aged 55 will be honoured even if Air Malta goes bust.
“We will not give in to any blackmail,” Dr Mizzi said.
The pilots’ union has yet to comment on its industrial action decision.
Malta MedAir was set up in January 2018 and already owns Air Malta’s most lucrative asset – landing rights at major airports valued at €58 million.
Staff at the national airline have in the past expressed concerns that it is being positioned to take over from the long-standing national carrier.
Dr Mizzi had shot down such concerns in March, insisting there were no plans for Malta MedAir to become a fully-fledged airline or compete with Air Malta.
The minister had made similar assurances about yet another airline, Malta Air, which Ryanair is to set up following a deal with the Maltese government.
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