Air Malta plc is the national airline of Malta, headquartered in Luqa. It operates services to 36 destinations in Europe and North Africa. The airline's hub and base is at Malta International Airport.
Shortly after the Second World War, several small private airlines were formed in Malta. Amongst these were The Malta Instone Airline, BAS (Malta) Ltd, and Malta Airlines. In 1947 the former two companies merged to form Air Malta Ltd in fierce competition with the latter. Eventually in 1951 Malta Airlines absorbed the operations of Air Malta Ltd and continued operating through an agreement with BEA until 1973. The owners of Air Malta Ltd used their real estate, staff and equipment to set up a ground handling company called MAS, Malta Aviation Services.
In the early 1970s the Maltese government made a call for an international airline partner to help set up an airline. Pakistan's PIA was selected and a new carrier set up. The name chosen for the new airline was similar to that of its forerunner, Air Malta Co Ltd, and was established on 31 March 1973. BEA was chartered to continue its Malta operations, this time for Air Malta, until Air Malta's first flight on 1 April 1974. Both Malta Airlines and Malta Aviation Services were taken over by the government and the private owners were given a shareholding in Air Malta Co. Ltd.
Air Malta started operations, with two wet leased Boeing 720Bs that served Rome, Tripoli, London, Manchester, Frankfurt and Paris from Malta's airport. It later bought three more Boeing 720Bs and bought the original two.
In 1981, three Boeing 737-200s were wet leased, which were so successful that in 1983, three new fully owned Boeing 737-200s were delivered. In 1986, Air Malta bought three new Boeing 737-200s, and in 1987 ordered its first Airbus A320. In 1989, Air Malta exercised an option for one more A320, and in 1992, three more Boeing 737-300s were ordered. That year, four Avro RJ70s were ordered for routes to Catania and Palermo and to new destinations such as Tunis and Monastir.
After the opening of Malta International Airport in 1992, Air Malta created CargoSystems, which includes the air transportation of cargo on Air Malta planes. In 1994, Air Malta inaugurated a cargo center at the airport. It was also during this time that a codesharing agreement with Trans World Airlines began.
Between 2002 and 2007, Air Malta embarked upon a fleet replacement programme, opting to change all aircraft to Airbus A319s and A320s, thus reducing the average age of the fleet to around 2.5 years. The last aircraft in this order, A320 9H-AEQ, was delivered on 22 March 2007.
Air Malta has around 190 interline ticketing agreements with other IATA airlines. It has a codeshare agreement with Qantas covering the following routes: Sydney-Singapore-Heathrow-Malta, Sydney-Bangkok-Heathrow-Malta and Melbourne-Singapore-Heathrow-Malta.
According to the Association of European Airlines quarterly review of May 2006 Air Malta is the airline that loses the least amount of passenger baggage. The amount of baggage lost in the first quarter of 2006 was 4.1 bags missing per 1000 passengers.
In winter the airline often leases out aircraft to maximise earnings during the low season. In September 2007, for instance, Air Malta made two agreements with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways by which Air Malta wet-leased two Airbus aircraft to Etihad Airways for the winter period starting September 1, 2007, and provided operational support on another Airbus A320 aircraft leased by Etihad Airways. In January and February 2009 Air Malta wet-leased A320 9H-AEF to Sky Airline of Chile.
In summer the airlines start new flight to Kyiv (Boryspil International Airport) by friday on Airbus A319.
Air Malta is owned by the Maltese government (98%) and private investors (2%). Air Malta also has a 25% shareholding in Medavia. The airline employs 1,380 staff.