Maltese national flag carrier, Air Malta has decided to suspend all flights following the Maltese government’s decision to ban all commercial air traffic due to the coronavirus pandemic. The decision came into effect yesterday, a minute before midnight. Air Malta canceled all flights arriving or departing from Malta International Airport (MLA).
Following consultations with the Mediterranean Island’s health authorities, Air Malta issued a statement that reads:
“Following a decision by the Maltese Health Authorities, Malta is banning all commercial travel to Malta for flights departing after 2359UTC on Friday 20th March, until further notice. This measure was taken to contain the spread of the Coronavirus Covid-19 pandemic.”
The suspension does not include humanitarian missions
While affecting the coming and going of many passengers to the island nation, the suspension of flights does not include important air cargo deliveries and the Maltese government’s ability to commandeer the aircraft for humanitarian missions and the repatriation of Maltese citizens left stranded after many European nations closed their borders.
According to the aviation website FlightGlobal before the suspension of services, the national airline of Malta operated flights to 24 destinations from its base at Malta International Airport in the town of Gudja just outside the capital city of Valletta.
Air Malta’s small fleet
According to the aviation geek website Planespotters.net, Air Malta operates a fleet of aircraft that comprise just seven Airbus A320-200s and three Airbus A320neos. The airline’s most popular route is to London Heathrow (LHR) to which they would normally fly two return flights per day.
In its statement about the suspension of service, the airline issued a message for Maltese nationals:
“Maltese Nationals affected by this travel ban and who are currently outside Malta need to contact the Ministry for Foreign and European Affairs Office. Residents can contact this office on +356 22042200 or by email at email@example.com. The Ministry will be organizing repatriation flights.”
Air Malta is not alone in its decision to shut down operations due to the coronavirus with numerous other airlines around the world either voluntarily suspending flights or being told to do so by their governments.
As a whole, the airline industry has seen a dramatic reduction in the number of passengers due to the public’s fear of contracting the coronavirus. Airlines have experienced nothing like this since the days following the September 11th, 2001, terror attacks against New York and Washington. As such, they are having a hard time dealing with the steep decline in business.
Airlines asking governments for help
Following the initial outbreak of the coronavirus in Wuhan, China, it quickly spread to South Korea, Iran, and Europe. Italy and Spain are now among the worst two affected counties in the world.
As fight cancellations started to overtake the number of bookings, airlines are working to reduce capacity by grounding aircraft and putting staff either on reduced wages or unpaid leave. How long the current situation will last is hard to say. The United Kingdom is the latest government to ban its citizens from socializing in pubs, or places of entertainment like cinemas or sporting events.
Many airlines are saying that without government support they may be forced to shut down. While some counties will step in to ensure their national carriers survive, others will not, leaving not only a glut in aircraft but thousands of people without jobs.