European low-cost juggernaut Ryanair Holdings plans to grow its Mediterranean presence after agreeing to buy Maltese start-up Malta Air and transfer across six Boeing 737s.
Malta Air will join Buzz (Poland), Lauda (Austria), and Ryanair (Ireland) in the low-cost group’s growing roster of carriers after the planned completion of the transaction at the end of the month.
Ryanair said the move would give it access North African markets and it planned to boost its Malta-based fleet to 10 aircraft within three years, creating 350 jobs.
Media reports suggested the Maltese government retains a “golden share’’ in the start-up giving it a veto on major changes.
The switch of the six B737s based in Malta to the new acquisition will mean 200 Malta-based crew will move to local contracts paying Maltese taxes.
Ryanair also plans to move more than 50 Ryanair aircraft from France, Italy and Germany to the Maltese registry in coming years.
This will allow crews to pay their income taxes locally in France, Italy and Germany — a move in keeping with worker demands that they be allowed to pay taxes in their home countries instead of Ireland.
The deal was welcomed by Malta’s Tourism Minister, Konrad Kizzi.
“The relationship between Ryanair and Malta has evolved into a successful collaboration,’’ Kizzi said in the announcement.
“We welcome Ryanair’s commitment to operate and grow a fully fledged Malta-based airline which will contribute in a large way to the country’s development.”
Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said he looked forward to working closely with Maltese authorities.
“Malta Air will proudly fly the Maltese name and flag to over 60 destinations across Europe and North Africa as we look to grow our Maltese based fleet, routes, traffic and jobs over the next three years,’’ O’Leary said.
“Ryanair’s continued partnership with the Malta Tourism Authority will help drive forward the vision of Prime Minister Muscat and Minister Mizzi to grow year-round connections to all corners of Europe which will support increased tourism, business and jobs in Malta.”
One downside of the deal is that a similarity in names could cause some confusion among travelers with Malta’s existing state-owned airline, Air Malta