In a short statement the government today announced it has set up a new company named Malta Air Travel Limited. The new company will own the airport slots that Air Malta currently holds. Most of these are close to worthless. But the slots for the early morning flights that Air Malta flies into Heathrow are estimated to be worth tens of millions of euro.
The government has been very secretive about this process which has been cooking for several months. Its very short statement of today appears to have been provoked by press questions put to the government on what it’s been up to.
But there are more questions the government needs to answer. Is it true that the government has already attempted to transfer the Heathrow slots to its new operation but was denied permission to do so by the Heathrow airport authorities because the new company is not licensed to operate planes? Is it true that in order to circumvent this the government is arranging for its new company to be licensed as an airline by Malta’s civil aviation authority? Today’s statement says the company owning the landing slots is “required by law to hold an air operators license”. Which law?
Is it true that the license being used is already in existence and used by a private operator?
These questions are relevant because the separation of the Heathrow slots from the rest of the value base of Air Malta may very well mean something the government is not yet saying. It may very well mean that the government is seeking to ring-fence the valuable assets still at Air Malta and leave behind all the toxic elements no one in their right mind would want to own.
Is the government looking to privatise the new entity it has set up?
Konrad Mizzi is organising this deal. We have been through his prestidigitations before: in the power station, in the hospitals, in every occasion where the value of public infrastructure was separated from its cost, taxpayers retained the bones and anonymous profiteers gorged themselves on the flesh.
The moment he was appointed to run the Ministry responsible for Air Malta we all realised with horror that we have seen this awful thing before.
His game appears to be afoot again.