Malta International Airport expects 7.2 million passengers to pass through its gates this year, the company’s chief executive officer Alan Borg revealed last Wednesday.
If achieved, the figure would represent a 25 per cent increase in passenger numbers over 2022 and fall just shy of the 7.3 million record achieved in 2019, before the COVID-19 pandemic.
The airport’s 7.2 million forecast is also higher than what the airport was initially expecting. Earlier this year, airport CEO Alan Borg said the airport expected to welcome 6.3 million passengers by the end of 2023.
Borg said that in the first half of 2023, over 3.4 million passengers travelled through the airport, showing an increase of 5.6% over 2019.
The airport CEO was speaking at a press conference called to announce MIA’s mid-year traffic results, forecasts for the rest of the year and updates on its investments.
He highlighted how airport traffic exceeded 700,000 passengers in April, surpassing 2019 levels by 8.4%.
The airport registered buoyant monthly seat load factors (SLF) that peaked in June at 86% and outperformed both 2022 and 2019 levels, he said.
Despite the airport’s strong results in the first half of the year, Borg noted that demand and appetite for travel could slowly calm down.
Quoting a European Travel Commission travel sentiment survey, he said that 20% of respondents said they were “unlikely to travel” over the next six months.
“While inflationary pressures and higher ticket prices have not yet dampened the demand for travel, such factors could have a dampening effect later on in the year,” he said.
“I predict that this strong demand will continue until the end of September, and then we will see traffic begin to slow down.”
Like previous years, the top markets remained Italy and the UK, followed by France, Germany and Poland. He said the airport welcomed 822,810 passengers from Italy between January and June this year and noted a slight drop in the second-highest market share- UK passengers. He linked this drop in UK passengers due to the drop in seat capacities provided by both airlines, Air Malta and Ryanair. He said both France and Poland markets have increased, rising by 51% and 55% respectively.
When it comes to airlines, similar to previous years, budget airline Ryanair dominated the market, retaining the highest market share (43%) followed by Air Malta (26%).
He noted that Ryanair’s market share has grown by 25% since 2019, while Air Malta’s has decreased by 4%.
Moving the topic to the airport’s investments in airfield infrastructure and terminal upgrades, Borg said the construction works on the €40 million Apron X project are underway, following the start of excavations at the end of 2022. He said that phase one of the project is set to be concluded by summer 2024, with the first three parking stands in operation. The airport’s second runway, RWY 23-05, will be getting a complete overhaul with an investment of €14 million, with works expected to begin in the fourth quarter of this year. Once this is completed, works on another runway, RWY 31-13, will begin, including resurfacing and lighting replacements. Works to expand the airport terminal will begin this year and are expected to continue until the end of 2024, he said. The terminal will also be benefitting from upgrades to its heating and ventilation systems.
Initially announced in 2018, the terminal expansion project was paused in 2020 when the COVID-19 pandemic brought airline travel to a virtual standstill.