Ryanair has official launched a subsidiary airline called Malta Air which will operate out of Malta using a fleet of six aircraft and which will increase to 10 over the next three years.
The first aircraft was registered last night, with the airline aiming to carry five million passengers within the first five years.
Addressing a press conference as Castille this afternoon, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said it was a proud and auspicious day for the group, adding that the investment in the new airline represented an investment in Malta.
He described the negotiations that led up to the agreement as “the toughest and most difficult” negotiations he was a part of in the last 13 years, adding that the group would be investing up to $1 billion in Malta through the venture.
Asked whether the name and colour scheme resembled that of the national airline too closely, O’Leary said it could only add to Air Malta’s potential sales.
“Ryanair does not fly to Heathrow for example, but Air Malta does. So anyone looking to purchase a flight to London via Ryanair services will then encounter the Maltese airline,” he said.
The new airline will be taking on the 62 routes Ryanair currently operates out of Malta and will be looking to grow its network beyond that.
In addition to the aircraft that will be operated by Malta Air, the airline will be registering more than 50 other aircraft to Malta’s aircraft register.
Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi insisted that the new airline would compliment Air Malta rather than compete with the national airline as some might think.
“The relationship between Ryanair and Malta has evolved into a successful collaboration. We welcome Ryanair’s commitment to operate and grow a fully fledged Malta-based airline which will contribute in a large way to the country’s development,” he said.
He added that Ryanair will increase its Malta-based fleet to 10 aircrafts within ten years and would contribute to the creation of 350 new jobs. This means that 200 Malta-based crew members will eventually move onto local contracts and will pay local Maltese taxes.
Prime Minister Joseph Muscat said that the new Ryanair Malta-based airline will complement the services of Air Malta.
“Despite the scaremongering, Air Malta has not just survived but registered its first surplus in two decades. Welcome Malta Air and long live Air Malta,” he said.
In a statement published following the signing, the Civil Aviation Directorate within Transport Malta said Malta Air had been awarded an Air Operator Certificate and an Air Operator License to become the 37th airline registered in Malta.
The airline will be based in Malta and other countries within the EU.
The first aircraft has been registered as B738 S/N 44782 bearing registration marks 9H-QAA.