Air Malta folds after 50 years, new national carrier KM Malta Airlines takes over


After 50 years of service, Malta’s national airline Air Malta ceased operations on Saturday, March 31, 2024. The airline folded after the European Union blocked another public bailout, paving the way for a new state-owned carrier, KM Malta Airlines, to take its place.

Air Malta’s last flight, KM-103 from London Heathrow, will land in Malta at 12:40 AM on Monday, April 1 – exactly 50 years after the airline’s inaugural flight. The new KM Malta Airlines is set to commence operations the same day with its maiden flight to Catania, Italy.

“Today, as we bid farewell to Air Malta, I extend my sincere thanks to all staff who have been integral to the airline’s journey over the past half-century,” said outgoing Air Malta chairman Philip von Brockdorff, in a Times of Malta report.

While saying goodbye to the iconic Air Malta brand, von Brockdorff welcomed KM Malta Airlines as the new flag carrier for Malta. The new airline plans to serve 17 airports across 15 European cities.

Air Malta’s decline was attributed to government interference leading to an oversized workforce and unsustainable costs, according to Maltese Finance Minister Clyde Caruana cited by Reuters. At one point, the airline employed 1,400 staff to operate just nine aircraft.

In contrast, the slimmed-down KM Malta Airlines will operate eight Airbus A320 aircraft with under 400 employees, according Reuters. The new branding retains Air Malta’s iconic Maltese Cross tail design in a revised red-and-white livery.

To expand its network, KM Malta has already signed codeshare agreements with major European carriers like Lufthansa Group, Air France-KLM, and others. This allows KM Malta’s flights to connect to dozens of onward destinations across Europe.

Despite the change, the transition is expected to be relatively seamless for passengers, with minimal disruptions to existing flight schedules.

The closure of Air Malta has evoked strong emotions, with many current and former staff members sharing fond memories and expressing their gratitude for the airline’s impact on their lives and the Maltese tourism industry.

While the future of KM Malta Airlines remains to be seen, it inherits a legacy of 50 years of Maltese aviation history.

Source: Reuters, Times of Malta, AeroTime, Malta Today

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