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Malta airport infrastructure ‘at limit’ as passenger numbers swell

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As passengers reach record numbers, Malta International Airport has acknowledged that it is “at limit” for capacity, but its expansion plans remain diligently underway.

On Wednesday, MIA announced that thanks to sustained passenger growth, it had updated its projections and now expects to see 8.45 million passengers by the end of the year.

Last year, the airport saw a record 7.8 million people, meaning its revised projections would see passenger movements surpass those of the year prior by 650,000.

In comments to Times of Malta, MIA CEO Alan Borg said that while passenger numbers may be outpacing development, an expansion that would see the airport’s current footprint double is underway and steadily being implemented.

“The infrastructure that we have at the moment is at its limits for the numbers that we have,” Borg said.

“I agree that maybe the pace of our development is not in line with passenger growth, but at the end of the day, the logistics, planning and work for us to implement projects in the terminal are very complicated.”

After Malta saw a bumper year in tourism numbers in 2019, MIA announced a €100 million expansion project in January 2020.

But these had to be shelved indefinitely just a few months later as the travel restrictions put in place during the COVID-19 pandemic effectively froze international travel and the airport’s operations with it.

The airport announced it was able to once again pick its expansion plans back up again in November 2023, this time announcing a €250 million investment plan that would be implemented over a six-year period.

Malta Internatioal Airport CEO Alan Borg speaking yesterday. Photo: Jonathan Borg

‘People from Schengen will walk into a tunnel to baggage reclaim’

“I think it’s important to understand that our foresight for these investments goes back to 2020 when we launched this big plan to double the airport’s footprint and two months later, we were switched off,” Borg said.

However, he continued, expansion is coming in steady phases. 

“We are growing our arrival routes so that people who come from Schengen countries will walk directly into a tunnel into baggage reclaim, by the end of the year.

We are also dedicating the entirety of the upper floor to non-Schengen passengers, we’re investing in additional reclaims, and that’s just phase one,” he continues.

“More investments are coming in line with the plan we presented in 2020 to continue to develop the terminal to be able to cater to and give a fantastic experience to every guest that visits.”

“At the end of the day, we have a responsibility, we have the last and first impression of every tourist and guest, so for me, it’s not just about being able to handle the passengers, but it is about giving a fantastic experience to everybody who comes into the airport.”

Asked whether growing numbers could lead to situations that create crowding or discomfort for passengers while at the airport, Borg said that he has faith in staff to manage customer experience to satisfaction.

“I think that the fact that we got rated as the best airport in Europe for the sixth consecutive time, relative to the fact that we had huge growth I think says a lot about how our people go above and beyond to make sure that our passengers are treated well,” he said.

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