Fi­nal de­ci­sion on Air Malta-Al­i­talia deal in the near future Tourism Minister –

Malta Independent - - FRONT PAGE - Neil Camil­leri

A fi­nal de­ci­sion on the Air Malta-Al­i­talia deal will be taken in the near future, Tourism Minister Ed­ward Zam­mit Lewis said yes­ter­day, as an ex­ten­sion re­quested by the govern­ment has reached its end.

Back in Au­gust this news­pa­per had reported that the govern­ment had asked Al­i­talia to ex­tend the ne­go­ti­a­tions on a Me­moran­dum of Un­der­stand­ing signed ear­lier this year till the end of Septem­ber.

Asked whether an agree­ment had been reached see­ing that Septem­ber is all but over, Dr Zam­mit Lewis was cau­tious but said a fi­nal de­ci­sion would be taken soon.

“My po­si­tion on Air Malta and Al­i­talia re­mains the same – we will ei­ther come to an agree­ment that is ad­van­ta­geous to Air Malta and the tourism in­dus­try, in which case the govern­ment will be sat­is­fied, or we will not, in which case the deal will be off.”

Pressed for a time­line, Dr Zam­mit Lewis said he agreed that de­ci­sions needed to be taken. “In fair­ness work is car­ried out ev­ery sin­gle day, even if we do not an­nounce ev­ery de­tail in the press. Surely, we will be tak­ing a fi­nal de­ci­sion in the near future. And it will be com­mu­ni­cated to the pub­lic, just like the rest of this process has been. I am com­mit­ted to keep the whole process trans­par­ent, what­ever the out­come. ”

The Tourism Minister added that a lot of progress had been made with re­gard to the work­ers. “We have guar­an­teed their jobs. If re­forms are car­ried out they will know what will be hap­pen­ing and we will be work­ing with them. No one had ad­dressed this is­sue head-on, like we’re do­ing.”

“I am com­mit­ted to keep the whole process trans­par­ent, what­ever the out­come ”

Dr Zam­mit Lewis was also asked to re­act to re­cent press re­ports, in­clud­ing one that said that Al­i­talia has no money to in­vest in the Mal­tese na­tional air­line. “There were also re­ports about the Al­i­talia strike. Ev­ery big air­line has ex­pe­ri­enced strikes. Yes, Al­i­talia has its chal­lenges. It is in the red but it is also in­vest­ing. Al­i­talia is tak­ing care of its own sit­u­a­tion and we are fol­low­ing closely but also see­ing what’s in the deal for us. If things are agree­able we will reach a deal. If not we will say no and the de­ci­sion will be com­mu­ni­cated (to the pub­lic).”

The ail­ing Air Malta an­nounced that it had reached a pre­lim­i­nary agree­ment with Al­i­talia back in April but the news was soon marred by com­ments passed by the Italian air­line’s pres­i­dent, Luca di Mon­teze­molo, who said Air Malta was a ‘sub-zero risk’ op­er­a­tion which would not cost Al­i­talia one euro.

Since then it has also been re­vealed that Al­i­talia is los­ing around half a mil­lion euro a day and its op­er­a­tions were ham­pered by a num­ber of work­ers’ strikes.

But it seems that the future is not all black for the Italian air­line as, ac­cord­ing to some re­ports, the com­pany is man­ag­ing a turn­around un­der the di­rec­tion of Eti­had. Af­ter the UAE-based giant ac­quired a 49% stake in Al­i­talia in 2015 the Italian air­line has in­tro­duced new routes and en­hanced the pas­sen­ger ex­pe­ri­ence, both in the air and on the ground.

Air Malta has been in re­struc­tur­ing since 2012. While it has man­aged to re­duce its op­er­a­tional losses it has not reached its March 2016 dead­line to reach break-even point. The govern­ment has al­ready agreed in prin­ci­ple to ab­sorb the air­line’s debts – re­port­edly around €60 mil­lion – be­fore an agree­ment is signed with Al­i­talia.

The air­line’s work­force will also be re­duced but the govern­ment has promised that no work­ers will be made re­dun­dant. In fact they will ei­ther be em­ployed else­where in the pub­lic sec­tor or be of­fered vol­un­tary re­dun­dancy schemes.

It was re­cently reported that Air Malta could op­er­ate some of Al­i­talia’s south­ern routes as well as new routes to North Africa and the Mid­dle East. In do­ing so it would be strength­en­ing Eti­had’s Mediter­ranean network.

“If things are agree­able we will reach a deal ”

Pho­to­graph: Jonathan Borg

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Malta

© PressReader. All rights reserved.