Malta International Airport has nearly completed the first phase of its terminal makeover, aimed at making travelling in and out of Malta as quick and comfortable as possible. But that’s not all, the airport has also evolved into one of Malta’s top corporate addresses and an exciting investment programme still lies ahead, says CEO Alan Borg.
Malta International Airport (MIA) handled a record of 5 million passengers in 2016. What were the main reasons for this strong performance?
The milestone reached in 2016 means that the airport gained an additional 1 million passengers in just three years – a staggering increase of 26% since 2013. The growth we have been experiencing is the result of significant efforts by our team, who work closely with the Government and the Malta Tourism Authority in attracting airlines to choose Malta, in order to continue to improve our island’s connectivity and expand our network with the rest of the world.
We are projecting further growth this year, and 2017 has already got off to a flying start. First quarter results closed with a 22% increase in passenger movements, and we are looking forward to welcoming five new scheduled routes and two new operators to our family of airlines this summer.
You are currently in the midst of a €28 million terminal expansion project. Can you tell us more about the project and the progress achieved to this date?
Our €28 million terminal expansion plan will ensure that the terminal’s capacity adequately matches our increasing number of passengers while significantly enhancing our guests’ experience. We are first addressing two of the more important areas that are key to the passenger journey: check-in and security. In fact, MIA will shortly be opening a new central screening area, which has double the current footprint, allowing it to increase its screening capacity by 50%. We are aware that the security process is one of the biggest pain points for our passengers, so we have designed the space with plenty of natural light. On top of this, we will also be introducing family and fast-track lanes. The current security area will then be cleared to create more circulation space at check-in, as well as at least eight additional check-in desks.
As part of this upgrade, a new La Valette lounge opened its doors in March, inviting VIP members, business and first-class passengers, as well as one-time guests to step into a new level of airport luxury. Carefully chosen furnishings add a touch of warmth to the stylish surroundings, while a panoramic view of the airfield gives it a particular airport feel. Visitors can now also enjoy the lounge’s unique outdoor terrace, where they can soak up the sun while waiting for their flight.
Airports around the world are investing in technology, especially in relation to self-service amenities for passengers. How does MIA respond to these trends?
The installation of queue management systems and instant feedback tablets around the terminal, for instance, allows us to provide real-time solutions to any flagged shortcomings. Future proofing our airport was also fundamental to the development process of our Terminal Reconfiguration project. A new state-of-the-art baggage handling system is due to be installed early next year, while more selfcheck-in kiosks and automated boarding card readers will improve our efficiency in terms of passenger throughput. On another level, our recent partnership with global air transport IT specialist, SITA, will enable our ICT Department to focus on better harnessing the potential of emerging technologies and making the best possible use of them in an airport environment.
Your investment programme has also seen MIA become a provider of office space, with SkyParks now offering a top corporate address. What is the vision for the next phases as you roll out SkyParks 2 and 3?
In 2016, Skyparks Business Centre celebrated its fourth anniversary, and we are proud of the success this has achieved, housing some of Malta’s biggest brands. We want to continue capitalising on this and develop the area further, notably by exploring the opportunities presented by the growing number of aircraft registration companies. This market needs physical office space to operate, and working from a building just off the Terminal can be highly beneficial for these businesses. At the end of the day, investing in our airport’s success is an investment in the country itself, especially considering that the airport campus now supports more than 4,000 jobs. At the moment we are actively working on getting the permits in hand for the development of SkyParks 2, which is envisaged to provide office space for 1,700 employees. What is exciting about this second centre, is that it includes plans for a business hotel which will give us a new edge and benefit both existing and potential customers.