KM Malta has just 22% of the country’s capacity; Ryanair has half; Universal is growing

MLA - VIE

Situated between Sicily and Libya, Malta remains a very popular destination, especially for inbound tourism. According to the airport’s own data, the airport welcomed about 7.8 million passengers in 2023, well and truly above the 2019 level.

The arrival of Tunisair Express in 2020, Air France in 2021 and Eurowings in 2023 all contributed. However, it was offset by the loss of Iberia Express, Qatar Airways and Volotea. On 26 March 2024, local carrier Universal Air, which only uses the Dash 8 Q400, began flying from Malta to Pecs, Hungary, with eight more routes beginning in S24.

Malta traffic 2005-2024

KM Malta Airlines has arrived

On 30 March 2024, Air Malta ceased operating after 50 years of service. The loss-making carrier, which could not secure more state aid, was replaced the following day by KM Malta Airlines (KM was Air Malta’s IATA code). The purpose of the ‘new’ airline is to be considerably more efficient, lower-cost and competitive by removing its debt and other historical things.

Analysis of Cirium schedules information shows that KM Malta plans 17 routes in S24, as on the following map. When its network is compared to S23, when Air Malta existed, shows that Geneva, Lisbon, Naples, Nice, Palermo and Tel Aviv are no longer served. In other words, most of its network is similar to what it was before.

KM Malta route map

KM Malta has a fifth of the country against Ryanair’s half

Historically, Air Malta was, of course, heavily dominant. In 2006, shortly before Ryanair entered the market, it had almost seven in 10 available seats. This share continued to decline as Ryanair continued to grow. In 2019, Air Malta had less than a third of the available seats, against 36% for Ryanair.

In the full year of 2024, things have changed again. KM Malta is down to barely a fifth of Malta’s capacity, its lowest level yet. Will its new foundation help to propel its success despite its lack of scale? In contrast, Ryanair now has half of the market, its highest proportion to date.

Shannon AIrport

Maltas top airlines 2006-2024

Big summer traffic, yes, but winter is growing well

It would be easy to conclude that Malta is simply a heavily summer-seasonal market, as it is. In 2019, the peak month (August) had 2.3x the passengers of the least popular month (February), with the difference returning to that level last year.

What is more interesting is how January and February – very much off-peak months historically – have performed. When combined, they had about 940,000 passengers in 2024, 12% above the previous record held in 2020, just before the world temporarily changed.

Malta Seasonality 2019-2024

Italy remains the leading country

It should not be surprising that Malta has more seats to Italy than any other country. Italy accounts for a quarter of Malta’s capacity with 19 airports served. They include Palermo, 285 kilometres away, to be flown by Universal Air 3-weekly from 1 May, replacing Air Malta.

Universal’s Q400 Italian network also includes Cagliari (weekly from 6 June) and Perugia (2-weekly from June 1), both of which will compete directly with Ryanair. That is an interesting battle.

Top 15 Malta country markets S24

London Southend Airport