Air Malta: a short history


Air Malta started flights on 1st April, 1974 with scheduled services to London, Birmingham, Manchester, Rome, Frankfurt, Paris and Tripoli.

Today, we have evolved into a European regional airline trusted by hundreds of thousands of passengers every year. We operate a modern fleet of aircraft between the Maltese Islands and important destinations in Europe.



Air Malta is set up by a Resolution of Malta's House of Representatives on 21st March 1973, and registered as a limited liability company on 30th March 1973.

The Prime Minister of Malta grants the company an Air Service License valid for ten years starting from 1st April 1973.

Air Malta starts flying operations with two wet-leased Boeing 720Bs from Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) with scheduled services to the UK, Germany, France, Italy, and Libya.



The company signs an agreement with the Boeing Commercial Airplane Group for the purchase of three B737-200 Advanced aircraft. Their delivery in March 1983 coincides with the airline's tenth anniversary celebrations.

Within six months of the purchase, Air Malta sets a world record with the highest utilisation for all operators of this aircraft type: 14.9 hours per aircraft per day in September 1983.

Air Malta continues to consolidate its fleet of aircraft with further strategic agreements aimed at enhancing its mission statement of providing air-related services to benefit the Maltese economy and people.



During May 1990, Pope John Paul II flies with Air Malta on a historic official visit to the country.

Air Malta continues increasing the frequency of services to neighbouring destinations such as Catania, Palermo and Tunis.

In Spring 1994, Air Malta leases a wide-body Airbus A310 aircraft for use on high density routes to Germany and London and on the long-haul route to Dubai. This investment helps the airline increase its cargo carrying capacity, which proves invaluable to Maltese industry.

Air Malta becomes actively involved in the planning of the new air terminal at Malta International Airport, which was officially inaugurated on 8th February 1992.

The airline decides to increase the strategic importance of its cargo operation with a view for the airfreight business to achieve higher revenues.

CargoSystems is set up to provide services ranging from third-party handling through warehousing, marketing, on-board courier services and, eventually, a dedicated scheduled freighter operation.

During the mid to late 1990s, the airline decides to diversify its business. The company sets up subsidiaries and sections in related businesses such as package holidays, travel insurance and passenger handling.

Air Malta is awarded the JAR-145 Approval Certificate on 13 November, 1997 by the French Director General of Civil Aviation on behalf of the European Joint Aviation Authorities. This approval reflects the internationally-recognised maintenance standards at Air Malta.



In January 2003, Lufthansa Technik Malta - a new joint venture set-up by Air Malta and Lufthansa Technik AG - starts performing engineering C-Checks on the complete range of Boeing 737 and Airbus A320 family aircraft for Lufthansa German Airlines, Air Malta and third parties.

For the first time, Air Malta starts operating a Maltese-registered Airbus A319 in its fleet. The 168-seater aircraft, named ‘Valletta’, operates its first flight to Manchester. A second Airbus A319, named ‘Mdina’, joins Air Malta’s fleet on the 4th February, 2004.

Air Malta benefits from Malta’s EU membership by operating intra-European flights between Catania and London’s Gatwick airport. The airline sets up bases in the UK and starts a charter flight programme from the UK to a number of holiday destinations in Europe.

The company is awarded ISO 9001-2000 certification by Moody International Certification Ltd for its airside ground handling services.



The airline starts facing increased pressure on its revenues and its business model.

In 2010, the Maltese Government requests the European Commission to authorise a loan facility worth €52 million, in line with EU state aid rules. The Commission approves the temporary measure.

Air Malta’s board and management work closely with the authorities to design a sustainable restructuring plan aimed at turning the airline’s financial situation around. The plan is submitted for examination to the European Commission, which approves it after thorough scrutiny.

The airline starts implementing its restructuring operations which aims to make the airline profitable again within four years.

In mid-2012, Air Malta reveals its new brand positioning, unveiling a new livery for the fleet and new logos for the airline as well as subsidiary companies. The new positioning is aimed at promoting the Maltese Islands internationally and strengthening the airline’s role as the lead destination airline of the Maltese Islands.

In December 2012, the airline’s workforce relocates to the Skyparks Business Centre at the Malta International Airport. The modern, open-plan layout supports improved communication among staff and departments, thereby underlining the airline’s ongoing cultural transformation.

The company continues to work on improving all its processes as well as enhancing its commitment to delivering excellence in all aspects of its operations. It is now in a position to offer more competitive fares that compare very well to what is offered by the competition including low-cost operators.

Following the end of the airline’s Restructuring Plan, Air Malta expands its network and launches 25 new routes including a limited schedule of 5th Freedom flights operating between Catania – Vienna, Catania – London Southend and Cagliari – London Southend.

Air Malta launches a fleet replacement project to change all its Airbus A320ceo fleet to the state-of-the-art fuel efficient and more environmentally friendly aircraft fleet of Airbus A320neo, equipped with new generation engines. These new aircraft fleet offer more cabin space and comfort to passengers thanks to a redesigned cabin. The aircraft produce a 50% less noise footprint than the A320ceo. This project is aimed to be completed by the end of 2026.

In a major overall of its commercial offering Air Malta unbundles its services and introduces ‘Go-Light’ - a hand luggage only fare.

A new buy-on-board inflight menu was introduced on board Air Malta flights. The new menu offers quality, choice and fresh food items and beverage products. Customers can now also purchase these items with credit cards.

A new business class guest experience has been launched that includes a new gourmet inflight menu and an upgraded inflight experience. The new model offered business customers a more personalised service and a gourmet meal presented on specially designed Maltese themed crockery that celebrate the Maltese Islands’ traditions, history and culture.

Air Malta Holidays (the inbound package holiday arm of the Airline) is launched. The portal, started offering a one-stop-shop combining Air Malta flights, the best hotels in Malta and airport transfers at great prices.



The Government of Malta, as principal shareholder of Air Malta, announces plans to make the airline financially viable. The plans, which have been fast tracked also due to the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic, include a number of projects and will see the airline reduce its work force by 50%, improve workforce productivity, hive off ground operations, rightsize (but keeping inhouse) cargo operations, negotiate new collective agreements and refinance its aircraft leases amongst its key milestones.

A number of initiatives related to its route network and fleet plan were undertaken. The airline removed a number of unprofitable routes and reduced its network from 42 to 20 destinations. The network is continuously under review and optimised for profitability.


Last update: February, 2022