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Ryanair to launch new airline in Malta

Irish carrier believed to be in advanced talks with island’s government to launch Malta Air

Ryanair already operates six aircraft at its Maltese base under its own brand, servicing more than 60 routes.

Ryanair is in advanced talks with the government of Malta to launch a new airline on the island called Malta Air, it is understood.

Ryanair said on Monday that it “does not comment on rumour or speculation” when asked to confirm the plan. It is understood, however, to be close to finalising a deal to launch Malta Air. The agreement was effectively confirmed by the Maltese government in local reports on Sunday.

Advanced discussions involving Ryanair and Maltese authorities are under way to issue an air operator’s certificate for the new airline, which will operate as a separately-run subsidiary under the Ryanair group.

Malta Air will initially operate with six aircraft, with a view to increasing this to 12 in a short period of time, according to a report in local newspaper Malta Today, which first revealed details of the plan at the weekend.

In a statement to the local paper, Malta’s tourism minister, Konrad Mizzi, confirmed the advanced discussions with Ryanair: “We had a tough, business-focused negotiation, which you’d expect from a global brand like Ryanair. But we are working to secure a fantastic deal for Malta.”

The minister told local media the imminently-expected deal with Ryanair would be an “innovative partnership which forms part of our vision to develop Malta into an aviation hub”.

“We’ve built a bond of trust with a world-renowned company, and demonstrated that we are open for business,” the minister said.

It is understood that Ryanair may move the registration of up to 60 of its own brand aircraft already operating in Germany and Italy to Malta as part of the deal with the government there. These Ryanair aircraft would not be part of Malta Air, but their staff would likely be employed on the island.

Maintenance hangar

Citing its own sources, Malta Today also reported that Ryanair is currently also looking for sites for a maintenance hangar on the island, which will likely result in an increase in its staff numbers in Malta.

Ryanair already operates six aircraft at its Maltese base under its own brand, servicing more than 60 routes. It is believed that these aircraft will transfer over to the new airline and will receive new livery as part of a rebrand. Their estimated 350 crew will transfer to the new operating subsidiary.

According to the local report, Ryanair had previously expressed an interest in scoping out a deal for Malta’s national flag carrier, Air Malta, but the local government was not interested in pursuing this idea.

Mr Mizzi told local media that state-owned Air Malta and the proposed new Ryanair-run Malta Air would have little if any overlap.

If a deal is concluded to formally launch Malta Air, it will be Ryanair’s fourth aviation brand.

In addition to the group brand that accounts for the bulk of its traffic, it also has separately branded operating subsidiaries in Austria, where it owns Laudamotion, and Poland, where its subsidiary Buzz operates on a local air operator’s certificate. Buzz emerged from its old Ryanair Sun package holiday brand.