23 June 2004

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Air Malta expects turbulence from Ryanair

Ryanair may start operating from Malta as from next winter if an agreement is reached with Malta International Airport. The arrival of the Irish-based low-cost airline is expected to jolt the domestic market and, according to the Air Malta chairman, could possibly have a negative impact on the national carrier.
The news that Ryanair could make an appearance in Malta was first reported by our sister newspaper MaltaToday last Sunday. MIA Chief Executive Officer Peter Bolech confirmed with the newspaper that airport officials were holding discussions with Ryanair.

The low-cost airline wanted to start its operations as early as this summer, but then postponed its plans until next winter. Bolech told MaltaToday that Ryanair would enter the market in a big way and discussions were focussed on ensuring the package offered to the airline conformed to EU regulations.
While admitting that the arrival of Ryanair could have a negative impact on Air Malta, the national carrier’s chairman Lawrence Zammit said yesterday that Air Malta had been facing stiff competition from low fare airlines for a number of years.
“That is the reality of a competitive market,” Zammit told The Malta Financial and Business Times.
“The only thing Air Malta expects is to be treated fairly by government and private entities. Normally when airlines such as Ryanair decide to operate in a country, they ask for support from either governments or private entities. If they are supported, Air Malta expects similar treatment. After all we are the largest carrier serving the Islands’ interests. We expect a level playing field,” Zammit said.
Two German low-cost carriers and the Swedish low-budget airline Snowflake already operate flights from MIA, but the more popular Ryanair would increase competition and possibly contribute to the airport's growth. Ryanair has made a name for itself across Europe and is one of the major players in the low-cost category.
MIA is hoping that Ryanair would help boost the number of passengers passing through the airport. The MIA CEO was quoted as saying that Ryanair could add value to the airport, the Maltese economy and the tourism sector in particular.
At Vienna airport, which is a principle shareholder in MIA, low-cost carriers accounted for at least one-third of the growth in the number of passengers utilising the airport over the past year. Offering dirt-cheap prices, the low cost carriers have gained in popularity and are now considered to be one of the growth pillars, alongside the domestic carrier Austrian Airlines, for Vienna airport.

Copyright © Newsworks Ltd. Malta.
Editor: Saviour Balzan
The Malta Financial & Business Times, Newsworks Ltd, Vjal ir-Rihan, San Gwann
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