Monday, 21 October 2013

Air Malta: Monty Python aviation

Dawn breaks over Malta Airport

"...we have a good deeeel for you Meester" said the check in counter man as I turned up for my 0720 flight back to London. Never a good sign, that. It turned out the 0720 had been routinely overbooked and I was being offered 200 Euro to wait another hour and get the 0845 to Gatwick instead of Heathrow. I agreed, and was duly dispatched to the VIP lounge, told to wait there until an Air Malta rep came to see me.

Nobody did, and when the 0720 was called I thought I'd better wander down to the gate to check. The staff there were mystified, there had been no overbooking they said, and put me on the plane. Had I done what I'd been told I would have missed the flight.

Phew. I thought, sat on the plane. Which sat. And sat. And sat. It then went on a slow meandering drive around the lanes on the outside of the runway before coming to a halt. The captain came on board to tell us that a "communications fault" needed to be looked at. We wouldn't be long. An hour of shuffling hi-vis vests later, we were disembarked back to the terminal, now almost 2 hours delayed.

There followed scenes of total chaos. An elderly man inquired about a connecting flight. After establishing that it was not an Air Malta flight he was told it was not their problem. Another man became irritated that he could not retrieve his luggage to choose another airline. They called the police. After a bored looking Maltese policeman had established there was really nothing to sort out he shrugged his shoulders. Much like Air Malta appeared to be doing to its passengers.

Then, several hours later, a frisson of electric excitement ran through the remaining passengers – we were re-boarding! Clinging to hope we dutifully reboarded the plane. On came the captain to say that all was fine. And then. Well. Nothing. Out of the side of the plane we could see our luggage being offloaded again, so the crew were asked what was going on. “we will tell you soon”. “could you tell us now, please?” “No.”

Passenger ground crew
Eventually, nearing our fifth hour of delay we were disembarked again to perform “security” checks, by identifying our bags. Air Malta took safety and security very seriously they said. So it was reassuring to see they had a foolproof method that went as follows:

That’s my bag.” “OK thanks”. “Do you want to see ID or my ticket to check against the tag?” “No.”

Back on the plane there was more laughter than anger at this point, but by the power of Twitter which I had been venting my spleen on I came into contact with the passengers at Heathrow waiting for our inbound flight. “Is that by any chance coming to Heathrow?” one of them asked me. When I said yes he explained that they had been told we were already in the air and well on the way to London. My photos proved otherwise. It seemed AirMalta’s truth issues were getting worse.

I arrived, eventually, over 6 hours late and thought myself hard done by. But I then started to follow the experiences of the people I’d spoken to who had been waiting for the flight out of London. They too were embarked, only to sit on the tarmac for an hour (clearly a tried and tested tactic to buy time by Air Malta) and then disembarked. After several more hours they were told the flight was cancelled and they’d be going to a hotel.

c/o @womboy - Air Malta passengers in underground car park
Only they weren’t, at least not for several more hours of waiting during which Air Malta staff abandoned their posts and the crowd found themselves waiting in an underground carpark. This included parents with babies and young children at the start of what they’d hoped would be a holiday to remember. They certainly got that.

Air Malta – best avoided, unless you want the Monty Python approach to aviation.


  1. i share your anger for my national airline...i was cheeked out..buying a ticket online from their website and first CC didnt get through...I called their call centre and the operator confirmed that the internet price was confirmed, I passed another CC and this time payment was taken. To my surprise on my CC statement I found that i was charged and extra €10 administration fee when the operator and confirmation email had confirmed the original price. Wrote to their customer care, got a reply 1 and a half weeks later..sorry Sir it is something we cannot refund...this is the kind of arrogance we get from AirMalta...the faster it goes to oblivion the better!!

  2. Same experience.. I got completely wrong information by their customer support agent about the possibility to change a name on my ticket, and I lost the 320eur ticket as a consequence.. Response to my complaint started with few paragraphs with sentences like "ensuring total customer satisfaction is one of the maxims that guide our mission as a leading service provider in the travel and transportation industry." and then basically saying "thank you for your feedback".. I'm flying back home next week, I called them to confirm if I can have more than one checked bag if they are both under the 20kg limit in total, I asked the guy twice to confirm if it applies for my flight too (which has another airline booked), he said "mela - yes" and I'm just worried what happens when I turn up at the checkin with two bags...