At 4:20am this morning, an Air Malta flight carrying 142 Maltese passengers that had been left in Denmark returned to the island following a ‘relief’ mission.
The unscheduled flight was arranged ad-hoc and free of charge after Tourism Minister Konrad Mizzi was informed that a private chartered flight meant to bring the Maltese people back to Malta had not shown up.
To make matters worse, most of the 142 were children; young footballers who were in Denmark for a week-long training camp.
So, how did 142 Maltese people, mostly children, end up stranded in Aalborg, Denmark, at the height of summer?
It turns out that Joffrey Mallia, an Air Malta employee, also runs a private flight operating company called Flight Support Services, and he had brokered the 142 Maltese people’s fight to Denmark, according to One News.
While they were able to get the group to Denmark, there were already indications that not all was as good as it seemed. The group had arrived half a day late in Denmark last week following a late inbound flight and missed the Opening Ceremony they were due to attend.
Better yet, when they were due to return to Malta, they found out that their return flight had been cancelled, and no alternative was being offered by the company.
Mallia, who set up the trip, told the Times of Malta that “the operator that was supposed to run the return flight from Aalborg had defaulted”.
However, Air Malta have since suspended him, ostensibly because he had a “conflict of interest” between his role within Air Malta and his private jet brokering role.
However, Mallia maintains that Air Malta was fully aware of his other job – he had even booked the outbound flight to Denmark through Air Malta.
He was suspended late Sunday evening.
The group was meant to return to Malta on Monday afternoon, but arrived early Tuesday morning
Placing the blame on the private charter operator, Konrad Mizzi said that they had sent an Air Malta plane to rescue the Maltese, though it was not easy logistically since Air Malta was so busy with summer operations.
He also noted that this was an example of why Air Malta was an “asset” for the Maltese islands.
Air Malta confirmed that they had suspended Mallia, saying: “An employee of Air Malta has been suspended pending investigation once it was brought to airline’s attention that he could have been potentially involved in the case on a private basis.”
They also said they were “not aware of the charter operation until the request for assistance was received”.
As far as the Maltese children, who play with Pro Touch Academy and Sirens, are concerned though, they are just happy to be back on the island.