On 18 January 2022, Malta International Airport plc announced that during 2021, passenger movements surged by 45.3% to 2.54 million when compared to the total of 1.75 million movements recorded in 2020. Nonetheless, the level of traffic in 2021 was still 65.2% lower than the level achieved in 2019 prior to the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic.
The top drivers of traffic for 2021 were Italy and the UK with a market share of 19%, followed by Germany, France and Poland. MIA also added that the recovery started to take shape in the second half of 2021 as air travel gained momentum on the back of increased stability which also led to an improvement in consumer confidence. Indeed, MIA welcomed 2.14 million passengers between July 2021 and December 2021 which is three times as much the number of 0.73 million movements recorded in H2 2020. Moreover, October was the best performing month for 2021 with more than 428,000 passenger movements (-39% when compared to October 2019) amid considerable pent-up demand for leisure travel spurred by the easing of travel requirements which however was disrupted again by the emergence of a new virus strain in November 2021.
Commenting on the 2021 traffic results, MIA CEO Mr Alan Borg explained that: “The instant impact on air travel of the introduction of tighter restrictions towards the end of the year, once again highlighted that our industry’s recovery remains at the mercy of how governments respond to the changing epidemiological situation. The introduction of stricter and uneven entry requirements across Europe at the end of 2021 has already led to the cancellation of around 850 flights for the first quarter of 2022.” In addition, Mr Borg warned that summer 2022 is expected to be characterised by fiercer competition among similar destinations, particularly as vaccination uptake across Europe continues to increase. While recognising the local authorities’ efforts in putting Malta in the lead in relation to vaccination coverage, MIA’s CEO urged government to shift its focus on publishing a post-COVID strategy which would give the industry confidence to invest in businesses, thus contributing to an enhanced tourism offering and increasing the island’s competitive edge. Indeed, by aligning Malta’s entry requirements to EU regulations, government would be instilling confidence in travellers to book their next trip. In fact, data released by Airports Council International shows that at 33.5%, Malta’s recovery for the period between January and November 2021 still lagged behind that of Southern European peers such as Greece (52.5%), Cyprus (44.3%), Spain (41.7%), and Portugal (40.3%), despite MIA’s success in retaining more than 70% of its connections for 2019 throughout 2021.
Meanwhile, given the challenges that are expected to persist in Q1 2022, coupled with the instability within which the aviation industry continues to operate, MIA noted that at this stage it does not have sufficient data to provide the market with reliable guidance for 2022. The airport operator also added that its Board of Directors is scheduled to meet on 22 February 2022 to approve the financial statements for the year ended 31 December 2021.