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Air Malta ditched Berlin route after charter deal ended

Route was no longer profitable

Air Malta used to fly to Tegel, Berlin’s historic airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Air Malta used to fly to Tegel, Berlin’s historic airport. Photo: Shutterstock

Air Malta dropped its service to Berlin after a charter agreement ended last year, chairman Charles Mangion has confirmed.

He said there was no need for a public announcement, as the matter had nothing to do with the airline’s flight schedule.

The Times of Malta reported on Tuesday that Air Malta had quietly ditched its direct flights to the German capital, with irked readers complaining that the move was not publicly announced. Readers noted they only realised the flights had been stopped when they tried to book flights to Berlin through the airline’s website.

According to Dr Mangion, a charter agreement in place until last summer guaranteed 80 per cent occupancy of the flight.

Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi confirmed this was the case, pointing out that once the agreement expired last year, the charter operators decided not to extend it, instead making use of different airports. In light of this, the Berlin route was no longer profitable and was dropped.

He said Berlin was an 80 per cent charter operation and such operators renewed deals every year. In this case, he added, the majority were sea cruise-related flights and the operator opted to use different airports.

The charter operators decided to use different airports

Pressed to say why the public was not informed that the route would be dropped, Dr Mangion noted that once the airline had stopped the direct flight because the charter agreement was not extended it was felt there was no scope for an announcement.

“This was an issue linked to the charter operation and the fact that an agreement has come to an end, so it had nothing to do with the schedule,” he said.

Both Dr Mangion and Dr Mizzi pledged that the number of routes would not be decreased in the coming months, adding that, by summer, flights would add to about 1,500 a year.

Dr Mizzi said the new strategy to return the national air carrier to profitability involved increasing flights and routes on offer.

The airline has faced a long, uphill battle to return to profitability. Its revenues were down by about €25 million in the financial year ending March 2017 compared to the previous year.

Over the past weeks, Air Malta has signed collective agreements with staff, bar the pilots, who have yet to confirm whether an offer on the table is acceptable.

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