The Malta International Airport (MIA) registered a 47% increase in traffic over a three-year period and an 800,000 growth in passenger movements from the previous year as it announced a record-breaking result for 2018. 6,808,177 passengers passed through the MIA last year.
The airport did well in all major markets in 2018 with the United Kingdom and Italy - its core markets - growing in both the low cost sector as well as the high-end sector. UK traffic grew by 13% over the previous year while traffic from Italy grew by 14%.
MIA CEO Alan Borg said Air Malta was opearting two daily flights to Rome and three daily flights to Catania.
"Despite summer being the peak season, the growth was even extended to the winter season as winter-month traffic grew by 14%," he said.
The month of May, compared to May of the previous year, saw a growth of 9,000 passengers alone.
The French market also saw an increase in 2018 due to Volotea announcing a new route to Nice, while the Spanish market increased with Ryanair dominating the route.
"The top airlines dominating passenger movements were Ryanair and Air Malta, controlling 66% of all traffic. Ryanair leads with 2,449,915 passengers in 2018 and Air Malta follows with 2,034,472 passengers. Easyjet grew by 20%, mainly due to increased traffic through the Manchester route," Borg said.
He added that even non-EU destinations increased in traffic, a growth of 8.6% compared to the previous year. Borg added that Malta's passenger movements were above the average traffic registered in airports in Greece, Corsica and other nearby locations.
Forecast predicts continued growth
The European Organisation for the Safety of Air Navigation, commonly known as Eurocontrol, sees the MIA increase by an average annual growth of 1.9% until 2040.
Despite increased competition, geopolitical uncertainty and Brexit, as well as rising oil prices, staff costs and other financing costs, MIA predicts a continued economic growth.
"2019 will be an important year. Italy is going through challenging times, Germany as well and the United Kingdom is in limbo. This week's vote made a hard Brexit more likely."
Alan Borg, CEO of Malta International Airport
Air Malta had introduced three new winter routes in 2018 as well as three routes that were extended to the winter season. Ryanair has also extended eight of its summer season routes into winter.
In fact, MIA said that 2019 expects a total of 7.2 million passengers passing through the airport, a 400,000 growth in 2019.
Tourism minister Konrad Mizzi said that tourism in Malta between April and December was very strong at the moment with March surprisingly being the month with the heaviest traffic.
"The ministry and MIA work very closely together on many aspects, including policymaking. I'm proud that today, in Malta, we provide more routes than Heathrow airport. MIA generates a lot of money and after a successful year, it's clear the need to invest in the airport, to increase its infrastructure potential," he said.
"We have four primary areas where we will be investing: a multi-storey car park in the area, airfield improvements, airport security and terminal improvement," Borg said.
Airport security includes the investment in new fire trucks while the refurbishing of public restrooms, a new PA system, a baggage reclaim upgrade, new lifts, escalators and new tarmac on the airfield are also expected.
Borg announced that the €12 million terminal reconfiguration project that was started in 2016 will be finished by the coming March. This will increase circulation space, further retail, food and beverage options and new check-in desks.
The €20 million parking village will be finished by 2020. This will create 1,300 covered parking spaces and a tunnel linking the parking area to the terminal building.
Skyparks 2, a €40 million development will include a business hotel that will occupy a total footprint of 4,100 square metres. The permit for this development was granted in February of 2018.
A cargo village that will increase logistics warehouses is also planned.
The tourism minister said that Malta Industrial Parks is working with MIA for a masterplan on the airport.
The MIA team grew by 14% over 2017, Borg said.