The Chairman of Malta’s national airline came on board two years ago. Following a career as a politician and managing a legal/notarial office, he now spends most of his time working out how to get Air Malta to soar above its competitors. “I believe Air Malta has an obligation towards this nation. Air Malta connects the country to the mainland and, in my opinion, reliable and frequent connectivity between the island of Malta and the rest of the world remains Air Malta’s primary objective. Nevertheless, this objective needs to be realised in a competitive and self sustainable manner – thus productivity, efficiency and professionalism have to be evidently manifested at all levels within the company.”
However, change can come with turbulence, as Dr Mangion has experienced frequently since stepping into his role. “It’s a legacy airline and it has its legacy issues. People are always reluctant to adapt to change. When I entered the scene in 2017 as Chairman, I told people, ‘if we don’t adapt to change, let’s just close the airline right away.’ At the time, Air Malta had just completed the restructuring project executed with the blessing of the European Union and whose main objective was to render the airline viable.
“Today the staff see the company growing again, and they know the direction we have taken. They also know that we all need to work hard every day to survive. It’s a sales and yield-driven industry to be further enhanced by proper cost management and professional services. In line with this planned to overhaul our fleet to become more efficient. Over the last 12 months we added two aircrafts – bringing our fleet to 10 – as well as added 25 routes, which will bring us up to 42 destinations this summer.”
“Within five years, all our current fleet will be replaced largely by the Airbus A320neo which, apart from offering more efficiency and better economy and performance, will also secure homogeneous configurations. We operate 18,000 flights a year. In the past 12 months we have increased our passenger count by 300,000 and we are aiming for another 300,000 increase this year. That will bring our total number to 2.3 million passengers yearly.”
“Moreover, we commenced the implementation of our customer-driven policy. We introduced our Go-Light brand which, apart from offering customers the facility to travel just with their hand luggage, is more flexible, giving them the ability to ‘build’ the experience they want.”
Photo by Alison Galea Valletta
Dr Mangion now wants to focus on the future and has a clear five-year plan. He uses the word ‘connectivity’ a lot when describing how he sees Air Malta playing to its strengths, in arguably one of the toughest industries in business. And one advantage he thinks Malta has over other countries is its location.
“We are very lucky to be so close to North Africa, hence we can provide service to Morocco, Tunis and Cairo, as well as Tel Aviv. This gives us a better link to reach the southern flank of the Mediterranean and the rest of Europe. We are aiming to become the ‘Airline of the Mediterranean’. We are also looking at exploring the Sub-Saharan region. Following the opening of the Embassy in Ghana to facilitate the visa issue, Air Malta is in talks with the government in Ghana to view the possibility of opening a route to the country.”
Dr Mangion takes a very holistic approach when it comes to predicting the future. He does this by looking at the link between Malta’s diversified economic growth, the increased demand for new and better jobs, and the demand for improved and free healthcare services – these all contribute to a growing population.
“This is the scope behind the call for better connectivity. Every new economic sector, as well as existing ones, offers new opportunities and makes new demands on the objective of enhanced connectivity,” he adds.
As well as connectivity, ‘diversification’ is another term that ranks high in Dr Mangion’s vocabulary, when speaking about his plans for Air Malta. “In the future, I would like to develop the carriage of goods, including medical supplies. When people speak about air travel, they only think of passengers, but there is a lot of trade which travels by air. We believe that carriage of cargo can evolve into a cargo logistic centre here, with specific cargo aircraft that has a range up to the Sub-Sahara. We see a lot of goods coming from China which can be deposited in Malta and then transported on. If it can be done successfully by sea, we also believe Malta has a strategic location by air that we can exploit.”
In March, the company announced that after 18 years it has made an operational profit. “For the financial year 2018, we registered a profit of €1.2 million and increased revenue by €5.3 million, mainly driven by an 11 per cent increase in passengers,” he asserts.
This interview first appeared in the June edition of iGaming Capital.