Who exactly runs Air Malta?

'No one is doubting the professionalism of the Maltese pilots, and the fact that they should be handsomely remunerated for their work. But the time for arguing that pilots can continue to dictate how Air Malta’s business strategy works out is over'

Reports talk of millions being forked out to compensate late flights brought about by work-to-rule stands by Maltese pilots
Reports talk of millions being forked out to compensate late flights brought about by work-to-rule stands by Maltese pilots

You all know the feeling, you have been away for 12 days and you arrive at the airport after a long drive. You just want a magic wand to land you straight into your bed after a soothing shower.

Well, in my 35 years of travelling with Air Malta last Thursday was the first cancelled flight ever. Waiting for the flight was a posse of professionals who represented the combined force  of respiratory and pulmonary doctors in Malta. Their patients would have to wait.

Other families who were eagerly looking forward to leave Malta for Paris for a much awaited short family trip to Disneyland were faced with a cancelled flight. No problem, f*** them too.

The story goes that the two pilots for the flight reported sick and so did the pilots who were on stand-by. Obviously, many believe that the whole sick leave saga was a charade – who knows?

Air Malta pilots have been complaining of being taken for granted and of being presented with flight schedules which do not make sense and they have insisted that their flying hours are excessive. They also complain about smaller things such as the right for all Maltese pilots not to have their conversation in the cockpit recorded automatically.

Meanwhile no one mentions the fact that if Air Malta was a private company it would have closed down a long, long time ago. The fact that tax-payers keep it alive is, of course, of no consequence.

The airline under Konrad Mizzi has been revisiting its strategy and opting for an aggressive growth policy.

But last’s Thursday cancellation left passengers in Malta and Paris stranded and it also significantly meant that Air Malta forked out at least 170K to cover extraordinary costs.

Reports talk of millions being forked out to compensate late flights brought about by work-to-rule stands by Maltese pilots.

No one is doubting the professionalism of the Maltese pilots, and the fact that they should be handsomely remunerated for their work. But the time for arguing that pilots can continue to dictate how Air Malta’s business strategy works out is over. Public opinion is not on the side of the pilots, for the wrong reasons perhaps, but pilots forget that not everyone earns those kinds of wages in Malta (with many, though not all, running a side business too) and that brings envy. Once again, unjustified perhaps, but the fact remains that pilots are not exactly a deprived segment of society.

As things stand, it is also clear that the Air Malta management are in no mood to accept more demands. On the other hand, Air Malta cannot ignore the fact that growth and a decision to go for new routes and a heavier schedule cannot be met if there is not going to be a robust and happy pilot crew.

This problem needs fixing and if it were a business run by anyone of us, then decisions would have long been taken.

What we need now is a closed chapter to a chapter that has been reopened over and over again for the last decade. We need closure, we need to move on.

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I definitely can never be classified as a fan of Daphne Caruana Galizia, indeed I was her most consistent critic. I considered her a gossip monger, amateurish in her journalistic investigations, a classist, a naïve and cruel individual who intentionally confused her work as a publicist with that of a journalist, and one who was highly selective in her choice of stories or angles. She also contributed to a political division in Maltese society that was unprecedented. But all this never justified her murder.

Which is why I cannot understand why the Great Siege monument has been cordoned off. And I do not agree that people should go through some kind of procedure to express their feelings and outpouring of grief.

If people put flowers at the foot of Nelson’s column in Trafalgar Square, or in Bastille Square no one argues about the protocol or the need of a procedure.

No matter how much I derided her writings, I never ever felt the need to block or speak out against those who expressed their devotion for this woman.

Because I know that when we talk of freedom and tolerance, we cannot determine or decide when it suits us and when it does not.

Like so many others I think that the Great Siege monument has more significance than the divisive figure of Caruana Galizia, but then monuments are innate objects that are built by society to commemorate an event or a person. Their significance changes with time and is determined by society, not by boards and commissions. The hundreds who gather to commemorate Caruana Galizia do not need to be given a right to express their feelings. They do not need to apply for a permit to accuse others of having been accomplices in her murder.

Who are we to deny them their right to do what they wish and ask for?

I, for one, will be the first one to defend their right to do what they like. Because I want to have the freedom to stand up next time, anytime and say it as it is. Even though I know that when I do express my opinion, there will be those who will accuse me of having been one of her murderers. Even though when her house was torched by arsonists, I was the first one to be at her home to offer my support. Because beyond her hysteric classism, there is a greater value – the value of tolerance and freedom of speech.

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A few weeks ago before his death, I wrote about Joe Sultana, the man from Xaghra, Gozo who left an indelible treasure for those who endeavour to understand Malta’s natural history and so much more, especially when it comes to the roots of environmentalism in Malta.

Joe was a great and productive man who dreamt of a Malta and Gozo where nature could live side by side with society. He dreamt of a Malta that could live up to standards that are taken for granted in most modern societies.

He will be missed by so many, especially many of his friends in Birdlife. His greatest regret must have been the fact that he died not being able to experience a different attitude in Malta. In the week when Joe Sultana passed away, hunter and trapper Clint Camilleri was having it off on Twitter with Joe Sultana’s son, trying to convince everyone that the hunting situation had got better and that Mark Sultana was not being positive.

To echo his false claim, he repeated a statement by the German organisation CABS, an organisation that until some time ago was considered by government to be an unwanted renegade organisation led by ‘foreign’ extremists. In the latest edition of MaltaToday, a plethora of freshly killed and maimed migratory birds accompany an article on the state of affairs in Malta.

We may have made inroads in hitting new economic figures but when it comes to nature protection, we are in a division of our own – fifth division perhaps. Even if you will always find some keyboard warrior eager to tweet and state the complete opposite.

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