Air Malta will start twice weekly scheduled services between Malta and Palermo as from July 4, 2016. These flights will operate in addition to the 13 weekly flights between Malta and Catania/Sicily and reinforce the airline’s leading position between Italy and Malta.
The new link, which will be retained through the winter 206/2017 schedule grows the national carrier’s network into Italy to 34 weekly flights. It marks the airline’s return to Palermo, a destination it previously served on a summer seasonal basis through to April 2011.
“This is more good news for our customers,” said Ursula Silling, chief commercial officer, Air Malta. “We are thrilled to launch new flights to/from Palermo’s Falcone-Borsellino airport and thus offer 15 weekly flights between Sicily and Malta. With over 2,700 years of history, the Sicilian capital has a lot to offer”, continued Ms Silling.
The new flights will offer improved connectivity between Malta and the western part of Sicily. Palermo is Sicily’s largest city, a historic melting pot of Western and Arabic cultures and as a developing tourist destination, is becoming a gateway to explore the region, renowned for its rich culture, architecture and gastronomy.
“Palermo is the island’s cultural, political and touristic capital and we expect to carry around 20,000 passengers in the first year of operation,” said Silling.
“As part of our constant schedule improvements we have also retimed some of our Catania flights to offer better connectivity with our services to major European cities. These initiatives are expected to facilitate business opportunities between the two islands,” she added.
Air Malta will see direct competition from Luxair Luxembourg Airlines on the Malta – Palermo city pair during the peak summer months. The airline introduced a weekly link between July and September last year and will operate the short programme of eleven return flights again this year during the same months.
Malta and the Italian peninsula have a long history of relations given their close proximity. Malta was part of the Normans' Kingdom of Sicily and remained associated with the Italian kingdom until 1194. In 1800 Malta became a protectorate jointly administered by Naples and the United Kingdom, although the latter had more influence. By 1813 the island became a British colony and thus moved outside the Italian sphere, although the presence of Italian culture and language has remained strong.
Air capacity between Malta and Italy will climb for the third successive year in 2016 and schedule data from OAG shows that a rejuvenated Air Malta is partly the reason for the growth between the two country markets. Available seats have increased 112.1 percent over the past ten years (2006 – 2015) and are forecasted to grow 12.9 percent this year, based on published schedules.
This market showed year-on-year growth through the second half of the 2000s, but a restructuring of Air Malta at the start of this decade and corresponding changes to its network meant that capacity declined in 2011 and 2012. Air Malta grew its Italian offering by over a third in 2013 and brought growth back to the Malta – Italy market.
Alongside its own 7.6 percent capacity growth between 2015 and 2016, this year’s record offer of over 630,000 seats in each direction has been supported by a 22.3 percent schedule growth in this international market at Italian national carrier Alitalia and a 23.4 rise by Ryanair, reinforcing the latter’s standing as the largest operator in the Malta – Italy market. This year also marks Volotea’s debut with the introduction of flights to Malta from Catania.