Air Malta : Buckle your seat belts.

Source: George M. Mangion¸ PKF Malta

As published in the Sunday Independent on the 27th January 2013

It is true to say that the company has seen better days and during its existence it successfully managed to foster multiple job opportunities for technical staff which otherwise would never have been on offer. Today it is on its knees scraping though the intravenous intervention of a massive €130 million rescue operation. Air Malta announced a €30 million operating loss at the end of its financial year in March 2012. The sad truth is that political pressure was a hallmark of the constant interference by the government navigating by remote control in the cockpit. During its formative years when gross profits were aplenty it was shamelessly used it as a job centre for unemployed constituents and recently that the low cost airlines have overtaken it in competitive offerings it comes as no surprise that the company was top heavy with employees. In perspective¸ who can blame the unions from having a field day in pressing for better conditions and higher pay during highly profitable interregnum of Joe .N.Tabone. The sad truth is that according to the E& Y report down sizing was the only viable option and a two year exercise was conducted to select the right complement while the rest were offered benevolent retirement schemes. Yet going down memory lane we meet instances particularly during the early nineties when the PN government boasted a feel good factor culminating in a money –no-problem mantra. It is no mirage that profits were pouring in Air Malta‘s coffers. The unions took the cue and paraded their members through the streets clamouring for a larger share of the cake.

There was a time when governments ceded to excessive union demands in order to buy industrial peace and as a consequence riddled the company with escalating financial obligations. Gradually it lost its competitive edge. Now that in the past three years the company reported heavy losses¸ some unsavoury news items are coming to the fore. The media reported how generously pampered were the senior management accountable for its critical condition. They did enjoy privileges and perks. The political masters such as ministers¸ MPs as well as former parliamentarians¸ were also privileged to an allocation of subsidised tickets. The reform headed by Tonio Fenech the finance minister saw that such freebies were curtailed and  as part of top management reshuffle he installed foreign managers at comparatively higher salaries (some are tax free) with a view that a new broom sweeps clean. The slogan by Tonio Fenech that the company cannot be run by “ a Cuc Malti “ was the swan song of the coterie of disposed management team mostly composed of locals. So why is it that AirMalta which in the early nineties  peaked at its best performance is now reduced to go begging for a cash injection to pay its wages? The answer will never surface but observers point to grievous economic mistakes which crippled the company with its accumulated losses. Really and truly some argue that the brunt of Air Malta ‘s woes is placed fairly and squarely on the directors who conceded against better technical advice to embark on a hair brained adventure to turn the island in a hub aka the Avro Liners debacle. The choice of the aircraft and the subsequent sale of the RJ70’s¸ as well as the creation and dissolution of subsidiary airline Azzurrair¸ are