“Malta cannot afford not having its own airline that provides vital passenger and cargo connections to and from the Maltese islands,” Air Malta’s new chairman Charles Mangion stated.
Speaking to MaltaChamber.org.mt, Dr Mangion said that his immediate priorities were to ensure the airline returns to profitability, continue restructuring, make the necessary changes and work with all stakeholders to ensure a future for the airline before looking for strategic partners from Malta or abroad. “Only then, when we have a stronger Air Malta, will we be in a position to negotiate and ensure the best possible shareholding framework to guarantee further growth and success for our airline,” he told this business portal.
“Change is inevitable, and it’s a way of a life in every organisation if it wants to survive. This is especially so in the aviation industry, where airlines compete aggressively for each and every passenger. Restructuring must be ongoing and we will continue to restructure the airline in order to render it competitive, efficient, economic and more consumer-oriented.”
Speaking about Air Malta’s progress so far, Dr Mangion said things have improved. “Over the past years Air Malta has managed to significantly cut down its losses and progress has been registered in this regard, however profitability has been elusive. We believe that Air Malta has a future if it grows. That’s why one of our first decisions was to re-introduce the Frankfurt route, and increase the number of aircraft to nine.”
Dr Mangion also spoke at length about the planned restructuring of the airline. “We must continue working to turn this airline around,” he said. “The changes we’ve recently announced indicate change in the way the airline operates. The new direction is based on growth both in terms of routes, frequencies and airline capacity. This however, needs to be balanced with a sound commercial plan, control of costs, increased efficiency and an enhanced product.”
He continued by talking about the staff of Air Malta, and concerns that jobs could be lost. “I appeal to all employees to work with me, my board and the management on the airline’s turnaround. This should be a collective and collaborative effort. The representatives of the employees know too well the situation of the airline, thanks to the unrelenting efforts of President Emeritus George Abela who is assisting us in Industrial Relations.”
Dr Mangion assured that the jobs of airline staff would be protected. “The employees know that the Government as the main shareholder of the airline is leaving no stone unturned to safeguard workers’ interests and their respective working conditions, while at the same time deliver on its promise to offer a future for the airline. Turning around the airline will ensure the tenure of the employment of all personnel.”
Asked about reports that Air Malta is to shift certain premium slots, especially those related to London, into a separate legal entity and lease them back, Dr Mangion replied, saying that, “Air Malta has been operating to London Heathrow since 1974 and this is a strategic route for the national airline. We will continue to make the best commercial use of these slots, in the interest of the company within the context of the approved strategic plan.”
Dr Mangion, previously the chairman of Enemalta and a former MP for the Labour Party, was appointed Air Malta chairman on 12 July 2017 by Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi. He replaced Maria Micallef, who will now be heading the National Oil Corporation.