Tour operators concerned as Air Malta axes Frankfurt
Lufthansa to continue to service the route
Air Malta's decision to stop flying to Frankfurt, one of Europe’s main hubs, in March and reduce services to Berlin, has infuriated tour operators, particularly those connected to the German market.
The operators said they could not understand how the national airline concluded it did not need to continue operating in one of Europe’s busiest airports.
Confirming the decision, a spokesman for Air Malta said that connectivity with Frankfurt would not be lost, because the German carrier Lufthansa would still service the route.
“The airline will still retain code-share flights to Frankfurt, where Lufthansa will be the operating carrier with two daily flights,” the spokesman said.
The tour operators approached by this newspaper said Frankfurt was one of the main air routes served from Malta and connecting to mainland Europe. They were more at ease dealing with the Maltese national airline for their needs, they added.
“We were shocked when we heard that Air Malta will stop Frankfurt. However, they told us that the route is no longer profitable for them, because Lufthansa has taken away their business. They also seem to have a problem with a shortage of aircraft,” a spokesman for the Federated Association of Travel and Tourism Agents (FATTA) said.
“We are very concerned about this. Although it is true that the frequency of flights will remain, at least for now, Air Malta used to serve our interests better as they were more flexible,” the spokes-man said.
According to the latest statistics, in 2015, Malta International Airport handled almost 300,000 passengers on the Malta-Frankfurt-Malta route, the second busiest connection after London.
In its reaction, Air Malta said it was normal for the national airline to tweak and change its schedule to take advantage of new opportunities, maximise resources and increase efficiency.
“Air Malta’s next schedule will see the airline increase frequencies on a number of key popular routes, including Munich, Brussels, Amsterdam, Vienna, Zurich and others,” a spokesman said.
On the other hand, there would be reductions on some routes, such as London Gatwick, Berlin, Manchester and Geneva, while the Frankfurt and Athens ones would be dropped.
Civil aviation industry sources said that though it was true Air Malta was suffering on the Frankfurt route because Lufthansa had eaten into its traffic due to an increase in flights and plane capacity, having fewer aircraft was taking its toll.
“Air Malta is now facing reality. It is obvious that it cannot cope with just eight aircraft, and this is the result of decisions made by the board of directors and the government a few months ago against recommendations to the contrary,” the sources said.
They said the procrastination on the government’s side on the company’s future could only drive business away from the national carrier. “The more the government continues to drag its feet on the deal with Alitalia, the more harm it is doing to the airline’s survival,” the sources insisted.
The government announced in May it was embarking on the last phase of negotiations to sell a 49.9 per cent stake to Alitalia. However, although the plans were to seal the deal by the end of August, no progress was officially registered and now there are reports that Alitalia has lost interest.