Over the years the aviation sector in Malta has grown considerably. The ever-increasing interconnectivity, a thriving tourism sector, together with extensive investment on the part of the national stakeholders in both physical facilities as well as human resources were key to ensure this sector develops into a safe and reliable mode of transport. Given the insularity of our islands, aviation is and will continue to serve as one of the most accessible and fastest ways to connect to the rest of the world, making it an essential component for the operationalization of many other economic activities.

In 2019, the sector supported over 5,000 direct jobs, of which more than 97 per cent were registered on full-time basis. With more than 50,000 aircraft movements carrying over 7.3 million passengers, and more than 16 million kilos in cargo, air transport indirectly contributed to no less than €600 million to the Maltese economy during the same year.

Despite the backlash that the sector suffered due to the COVID-19 pandemic, aviation still poses a high growth potential for the years to come.

At a local level, 2020 and 2021 have proved to be two milestone years in terms of co-ordination and efficiency for the local aviation sector. In 2020, many of the public entities that are directly involved in the aviation sector, have for the first time been grouped under the auspice of one Ministry. This has certainly led to increased efficiency and coordination. The setting-up of the Aviation Advisory Committee (AAC), in November last year, was an important step that continued to strengthen the coordination process between public and private stakeholders.

The overarching aim of the AAC is to advise and support the government in ensuring that the aviation sector in Malta continuous to grow quantitively and improve qualitatively in an economically, socially, and environmentally sustainable manner. To deliver on this objective, the AAC set up 8 different sub-groups to discuss and recommend to government on important issues such as the development of new and emerging niches, viable ways on how to make the aviation sector more sustainable, how we can improve our legal framework, how the government can help to enhance the aviation human resource aspect, and much more. As a committee, the AAC played an important role in the setting up of the Aviation Stakeholders Forum and the drafting of the National Aviation Policy.

The distinct challenges and opportunities that aviation, land and maritime transport have, necessitate individual attention

Launched in April this year, the Aviation Stakeholders Forum is serving as a common platform for all stakeholders involved in the Maltese aviation sector. Through this platform, private stakeholders can now have an even greater voice to contribute and shape public policies that have a bearing on their operations.

The input of the Aviation Advisory Committee to the National Aviation Policy that will drive our aviation sector up till 2030, focused on ensuring that the sector not only manages to recover from the backlash of the COVID-19 pandemic but continues to develop and prosper, and paves the way for the Maltese aviation sector to reap the best possible share of the forecast global aviation growth. The policy identifies over 20 objectives that will enhance the economic benefits deriving from a thriving civil aviation sector; exploit the potential of new and emerging sectors; strengthen the critical role of aviation in terms of connectivity; and mainstream sustainability in all aviation activities.

More recently, the government announced its plans to demerge the Transport Malta Authority, which among others is responsible for the regulation of the aviation sector through the Civil Aviation Department. The Malta Transport Authority, as it stands today, is performing its functions very well. However, the dynamic environment of the transport sector, its fast-paced growth, as well as the distinct challenges and opportunities that aviation, land and maritime transport have, necessitate individual attention. This is therefore a major step forward, which will yield even greater benefits for the entire aviation sector.

As a committee we are committed to continue putting forward recommendations and assisting the Maltese government in ensuring that the aviation sector remains not only one of the best in Europe but also globally. To achieve this, we will continue focusing on immediate challenges and opportunities, but also anticipating what lies ahead, preparing ourselves and working together with all aviation stakeholders in the best interest of the Maltese aviation industry.

Karmenu Vella is Aviation Advisory Committee Chairperson

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