Since March 2020, when international aviation was abruptly cut off in response to the spiralling COVID-19 crisis, Air Malta has issued €24 million in refunds, it has revealed.
Of the €24 million in refunds already issued, it identifies that €10.5 million were reimbursed directly to individual customers whereas €13.5 million was paid to its business partners.
These figures are the result of over 196,000 ticket refund requests.
In addition, the airline has received 81,000 travel voucher requests, valued at around €12 million.
Asked whether these figures give rise to concerns about the airline’s liquidity and ability to fulfil future refund requests, Executive Chairman David Curmi commented: “Clearly the value of both the amount in refunds paid and travel vouchers issued have impacted Air Malta negatively”.
However, he says, “we are committed and promise to honour all requests for refunds and travel vouchers issued”.
A Government bailout?
The worrying state of affairs for the airline is confirmed by reports in local media indicating that the Maltese Government has asked the European Union for permission to pump €290 million into the airline, in a last-ditch attempt to save it.
State subsidies for national airlines have recently come to the forefront of discussion across Europe, as Ryanair continues to launch challenges in EU courts regarding state aid for flag airlines, which it thinks violates competition laws.
On Wednesday, speaking at a press conference launching new routes, Malta Air CEO David O’Brien commented that whilst Malta Air’s parent company Ryanair considered the amount sought by Air Malta “small fry”, it would nonetheless be examining its application.
“If we think it is appropriate to object to it, we will take our objections to European courts”, he said.
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