As stated in many threads previously no Ryanair base is going to happen on the island for some time, there are several reason for this and is causing the Maltese government to tread a very thin. Which takes some explaining!
Malta International Airport is one of the most expensive airports in Europe for airlines to fly to and LCC are reluctant to operate to an airport with high charges.
Air Malta is a struggling state owned airline, with a legacy of high costs and continued troubles of competing in such a competitive market.
The islands main source of income was package holidays bring tourists to Malta with their weekly charters, but as LCC have eaten into the package holiday market and more traveller travel independently. Malta has been a victim to this market and with the lack of cheap flights until recently, people travelling Low Cost have chose to go else where.
The Maltese government decided to react to the ailing tourist numbers, by offering reduced airport charges to Low Cost Carriers on routes where Malta has traditional tourism link with (eg. The UK, Ireland and Italy). BUT they would only offer these reduced fees on certain routes, which would not put them in direct competition with Air Malta. This is why Ryanair came about launching LTN
, because Air Malta operate to LHR
in the London area. (LCC are welcome to compete directly with Air Malta, on exactly the same routes, but would have to pay the full charges and receive no discounts!)
So the government is in a very difficult situation to boost tourism figures to the island and boost the economy. Without damaging the struggling national airlines interests and putting them out of business, which is one of the largest employers on the island. Keeping landing fees high maintains some sort of balance... Not sure how this goes down with the EU's "open market" policy!
Ryanair are not going to be interested in basing aircraft at MLA
with very high airport costs, and only receive discounts on routes that suit the local goverment. The routes they operate at present to MLA
conveniently fit in with markets Malta are trying to attract, but Ryanair has had to work hard to get these routes up and running.
Also Malta has a fairly limited market, which is great for tourism. But with a population on only about 300,000 the outward bound market is fairly limited. Bases like Gerona (Barcelona), have a catchment area of several million and attract business and tourism traffic.
[Edited 2007-07-10 12:40:59]