A recent study published by a senior economist of the Central Bank of Malta, Kurt Sant, looks at how the country is slowly recovering the degree of air-connectivity that it had before the pandemic and the contribution that the new national airline will have in this regard.
In 2019, Malta was directly connected to 125 airports. In the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic this fell significantly to around 70 in 2020, and by 2023 direct connectivity increased to 100. There were 32 direct connections that were lost and an increase of seven new direct connections. In terms of countries, by 2023, country connectivity fell to 34, from 40 in 2019. One new country – Croatia – is connected to Malta, while seven countries (Egypt, Finland, Jordan, Morocco, Qatar, Russia, and Ukraine) are no longer connected. Some losses reflect extraordinary reasons (e.g. the Russia-Ukraine war), but the loss of direct connectivity from Malta to North Africa and the Middle East could have longer term impacts.
Notwithstanding this reduction in connectivity, in 2023 Malta registered a strong increase in passenger movements when compared to 2019. This means that activity from long-standing connections intensified. The Central Bank study notes that passenger movements should exceed the 8 million mark in 2024, leading the MIA to announce a six-year €250 million investment to upgrade airport facilities.
In his analysis, Kurt Sant notes that the new national airline will concentrate its operations on 17 of the profitable routes currently operated by Air Malta. Five routes – Rome Fiumicino, Munich, Paris Charles de Gaulle, Zurich, and Vienna – will, in fact, experience increased flight frequencies. Compared to 2019, the national carrier in 2024 will be offering 26 less connections to passengers. However, alternative airlines should offer flights to 15 of these destinations. Moreover, some connections such as Venice and Southend, which used to be offered before, are still served by multiple airports close by. Thus, Kurt Sant concludes that the overall impact on connectivity from the downscaling of the national airline imposed by the European Commission appears to be minimal. He also notes that, since the 17 routes serviced by the new national airline connect Malta to Europe’s largest airports, the airline will still be offering strong secondary connectivity to all continents.
Photo: Sandro Mangion