So, a day after the government announces the fantabulous profits made off the backs of unseasoned travellers like the Maltese people we get the wonderful news that some seasoning may be had via the new Low-Cost Airlines that will shortly be flying to Malta. Yahoo! What seems to be a little breakthrough in the battle for sensible travelling conditions for Maltese citizens turns out to be a little red herring. And here's why:
1. Meridiana flights as per Times advertorial article are advertised as having prices starting from €29. That's practically Lm12. Mind-boggling. Attractive even.
2. Pop over to the Meridiana.com site and you see the wonders of choice. Firstly you get to fly to Bologna. Which is not a kick in the face. Not at all. Secondly you can fly on Sundays or Thursdays. Which does give you weekend accessibility (better than, for examply Luxair offers to Malta which force you to take one-week breaks).
3. Then you click for a flight. You choose your trip. And we went for a weekend break Malta-Bologna from the 1st to the 4th of July.
4. The company is true to its word. Both going and coming the cost of the flight is €29. A total of €58 for Meridiana's coffers plus €3 service charge which brings you up to €61 that go to Meridiana for flying you to Italy. Still a good deal for a weekend break.
5. Then you look at the little box called taxes and airport fees. Aha. Let's start with incoming. In order to leave from Bologna airport, the total cost is €47.62. That's around Lm17. Pas mal. Then your glance shifts to the airport fees and taxes box relating to the Malta International Airport. The cost? You guessed it. €100.61. That magical number. Lm40. Almost twice the cost of the plane ticket.
So here is the breakdown:
Ticket cost: €61
Italian airport costs and taxes: €47.62
Maltese airport costs and taxes: €100.61
Magical Total for a Flight advertised as "From €29" - €209.23.
Still yahooing? Just for kicks we went to the Airmalta website. We checked out a flight to Rome on the same days and times (airmalta does not do Bologna of course). The results page included Alitalia options and prices in USD. J'accuse does the conversion for you too!
AirMalta Direct : $383 (including $150 taxes) [€312]
AirMalta Connecting : $529 [€431]
Alitalia Direct: $346 [€281]
Alitalia Connecting: $358 [€291]
What conclusions to draw:
1. Low cost airlines will cost less than AirMalta even when the taxes are factored in.
2. Maltese airport taxes are exorbitantly high (in this case twice that of Bologna airport)
3. Advertising is still deceptive and the OFT will remain dormant.
4. The airport taxes will go to subsidise Airmalta's unsustainability even though this unsustainable enterprise provides no direct benefit to Maltese travellers.
5. Will there be a trademark issue about the name Meridiana?
Finally. My personal concern about cheap flights is less about bringing tourists to Malta than about sending islanders to the continent to get a breath of fresh air. Within this context I am less concerned about increasing the number of tourists to Malta than I am with the possibility of Maltese being afforded the chance to broaden their horizons.
Malta International Airport: Where don't you want to go today?