Air Malta has introduced improvements to its business class product that should help the airline attract more corporate traffic. While Malta is a large and fast-growing tourist destination, the economy is also expanding rapidly, leading to growth in business travel its airline is keen to exploit.
The flag carrier has enhanced its business class service ahead of a major fleet renewal project which involves replacing its entire fleet of A320ceo family aircraft with A320neos. The first A320neo was delivered in 2018 and two more are slated to be received by the end of August, chairman Charles Mangion told CAPA TV on the sidelines of the IATA AGM in Seoul, South Korea, in early June.
Air Malta is equipping its A320neos with wi-fi, providing business and leisure passengers a better inflight experience. Mr Mangion said all aircraft will have wi-fi once the entire fleet transitions to A320neos.
The airline currently operates seven A320ceos, one A319ceo and one A320neo. The A320neo and some of the A320ceos are configured with 180 seats while the remaining A320ceos have 168 seats and the A319 has 141 seats. Mr Mangion said the future fleet will have one common 180-seat configuration, resulting in a more consistent product.
While Air Malta is retaining the same flexible business class cabin as it transitions to the A320neo it recently improved the product for all flights. “We have improved massively our business class and it is doing very well,” Mr Mangion said.
He added that demand is strong due to the Malta’s economic growth: “Many executives reside on the island now permanently – and even with their families – and they need to travel a lot. And they always prefer to travel on our planes in business class. The business class is a good source of revenues for the company and we intend to improve that as much as possible.”
There is no change to the seat; Air Malta only has economy seats but blocks the middle seat and moves the curtain depending on the number of business passengers. However, improvement areas include check-in, security, lounges and inflight catering.
“We have improved the service on board. We have also improved from the moment the individual enters the airport until he leaves on the other side at the end of his voyage … small details which weren’t up to scratch in my opinion, we are improving.”
Air Malta has only one route with a flight time of over three hours (Moscow) and no routes more than four hours. However, Mr Mangion points out there is a segment of travellers that for a three-hour flight “want a little more of their privacy” and to “be pampered on board. We are having a very good response and comments since we have introduced it.”
The airline has reportedly been considering long haul services but this does not seem to be a priority. Air Malta is also not now considering A220s, as previously reported, but is focusing on A320neos and routes of less than four hours.
The airline introduced 21 new routes in 2018 and currently has 41 destinations (based on OAG schedule data). It is now focusing on expanding to existing destinations although three experimental routes are being launched this year – Warsaw (once weekly summer only), Tbilisi (once weekly summer only) and Cairo (twice weekly beginning in September).
Air Malta has adopted a hybrid model and in economy is offering an unbundled product (checked luggage, seat assignments and food are not included with basic fares) that enables it to compete for price sensitive leisure passengers. This is necessary as Air Malta faces stiff competition from LCCs, which have been expanding rapidly in Malta, but at the same time is keen to attract business and corporate passengers.
HEAR MORE … Air Malta chairman Charles Mangion discusses the airline’s new A320neo fleet, recent improvements to its business class product and network expansion in this exclusive interview filmed at the IATA AGM in Seoul in early Jun-2019.