Air Malta, Malta’s national airline, is cautiously positive for the outlook of the winter season, almost two years since the entire travel industry entered a devastating slump brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Still, the Malta International Airport warned the country is recovering slower than its counterparts.
Speaking to Lovin Malta, Chief Commercial Officer Roy Kinnear explained that the announcement that European airports will be allowed to operate at 50% capacity spells good news for the sector, with trends indicating a stronger September and October.
Malta International Airport is less certain, noting that uncertainty was still dominating the sector, with airlines planning for the short term. Because of the uncertainty, MIA could not provide reliable projections for the winter season and beyond.
Still, the Traffic Development team is in the process of concluding a tentative winter flight schedule with the airport’s partner airlines, which could be published by the end of September.
Unfortunately, Kinnear conceded, the public has lost its confidence to book flights due to ever-changing regulations, the threat of another COVID-19 wave, and the constant changing of status for green and red-listed countries.
In fact, Kinnear said that 80% of travel booked will take place over the next 60 days, showing that aviation has moved to a short term decision where people feel confident to book their flights.
This was clear last July, which saw over 22,000 cancellations for travel after changes in regulations that demanded arrivals present a vaccination pass or PCR test.
Cancellations continued in August, but thankfully new bookings meant that they cancelled one another out. Still, Kinnear remains confident for the next two months. However, it is impossible to provide indications for November and beyond.
He explained that people are more confident to travel now than they were a few months ago. September is set to be the best month of the year, and while that is a positive sign, the peak season for Malta’s airline industry is typically in August, where Air Malta carries about 75% of passenger loads.
The operating schedule will still likely be reduced due to current numbers, but Kinnear said that the airline is content moving into the winter.
Reaching pre-pandemic levels will likely take several years, given the lack of consumer confidence in travelling. Kinnear suggested making travel as easy as possible and ensuring documents are consistent across all countries.
He said that the travel certificate was a step in the right direction, but more needed to be done to ensure consistency across all countries.
Meanwhile, he said that the hours clients spend waiting and boarding is making passengers disheartened from travelling again. He also added that the delay in vaccinating minors means that families are far less willing to travel.
Winter, Kinnear said, will be a test for next summer as the airline looks to rebuild confidence among travellers.
MIA said that passenger traffic is recovering unevenly, with differences being observed among countries as well as short-haul and long-haul travel.
It warned that Malta is recovering at a slower pace than its Southern European counterparts, with the latest figures issued by Airports Council International covering May – July showing average drops of 75% for Malta and 61% for our peers.
“This slower recovery is due to a number of factors, particularly the travel restrictions which are currently in place locally. If these restrictions, namely not accepting recovery certificates and negative PCR tests as valid entry documents into the country, remain unchanged and based on the information we have in hand at the moment, we do not expect pre-COVID levels to be reached before 2023,” it said.
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