Malta International Airport (Maltese: Ajruport Internazzjonali ta' Malta, IATA: MLA, ICAO: LMML) is the only airport in Malta and it serves the whole of the Maltese Islands. It is located on island of Malta, between Luqa and Gudja, and occupies the location of the former RAF Luqa. It was completely re-furbished, becoming fully operational on 25 March 1992. It is still referred to by locals as Luqa Airport, and sometimes as Valletta Airport internationally, as it is located 5 km (3.1 mi) southwest of the Maltese capital Valletta. The airport serves as the main hub for Air Malta and a base for Ryanair. It is also home to the Area Control Center and hosts the annual Malta Airshow, visited by military and civil aircraft from various European and other countries. The airport is operated by Malta International Airport plc.
The first civil airfield was constructed at Ta' Qali, followed by others at Ħal Far (RAF Hal Far) and Luqa. During the Second World War, the airfields at Ta' Qali and Hal Far were severely battered and civil operations subsequently centred on Luqa Airport.
The increase in passenger handling and aircraft movements necessitated the construction of a civil air terminal. Preparations started in 1956 and the British Government mainly financed what was then a Lm 300,000 project. Malta's new passenger air terminal at Luqa was inaugurated on 31 March 1958 by the then Governor of Malta Sir Robert Laycock. The air terminal consisted of two floors including some basic facilities such as a restaurant, a post office, a cable and wireless office and a viewing balcony for the public.
In October 1977, a new and longer runway was launched and works commenced on the extension and refurbishment of the air terminal. An arrivals lounge and another lounge dedicated to VIPs were added and the original part of the terminal building was used for departures.
This refurbishment was not enough as it still lacked certain essential facilities. Immediately after the change in Government in 1987, the new administration decided that the 35-year-old terminal was past its time and therefore gave the green light for the construction of a new air terminal along Park 9.
Until the construction of the new air terminal was completed, the Government embarked on a further upgrade of the old air terminal. The facilities introduced included air conditioning, new baggage carousels, flight information monitors, computerised check-in desks, a new floor surface and new retail outlets including a larger duty-free area.
The foundation stone of the present air terminal was laid in September 1989 and it was inaugurated in record time 29 months later, in February 1992. Malta International Airport became fully operational on March 25, 1992, and the old Luqa passenger terminal was effectively closed down after 35 years.
Over the last several years, passenger numbers have been increasing, climbing from 3.5 million in 2011 to 4.6 million in 2015. Passenger figures are forecast to exceed 5.0 million in 2016. The increase in passenger numbers is mainly due to the increased number of routes served by low-cost carriers. Ryanair based one aircraft in Malta from May 2010, increasing to two in May 2012, to three in March 2016 and to four in March 2017.
Malta International Airport air terminal operations include general passenger services, and the operation of an extensive range of retail services at the airport, airside and landside shops, restaurants and other outlets, which are all operated on concession agreements. The airport also leases office space to airlines and other travel related operators at the airport. Malta International Airport is a member of the ACI-EUROPE (Airports Council International) and a number of company officials sit on specialised committees and working groups within this council.
Malta International Airport has improved services for disabled and reduced mobility people to ensure an easier transit through the airport terminal to the aircraft and similarly on return.
The head office of Medavia is on the airport property.
Within the grounds of Malta International Airport is situated several pilot training academies:European Pilot Academy
Sky People Aviation Training Ltd
the armed forces of Malta air wing is based at Malta international airport in the air wing terminal where there are six hangars. The following aircraft are operated by Malta:King Air 200 (2 in service; third on order)
Britten-Norman islander (2 in service)
British Aerospace Bulldog (4 in service)used for armed patrol
Agusta-Westland AW 139 (2 in service; 1 on order)
Located within the grounds of Malta International Airport, the Business Centre is the first building in Malta to have applied for BREEAM (BRE Environmental Assessment Method) certification to become the island's first Grade A office park. The head office of Air Malta is at Level 2 of the Skyparks Business Centre.
The Malta Airport MetOffice is part of the Malta International Airport and provides the function of a national meteorological service for Malta. Although they primarily serve aviation they also service the public sector.
All equipment, other than the Doppler Weather Radar, is enhanced by automatic weather stations, of which eight are situated in Malta and Gozo. At the same time an aerodrome weather observation system is located at the airport.
The MetOffice is able to get information from the Agencia Estatal de Meteorología in Madrid and the UK's Met Office along with numerical weather models such as those provided by the European Centre for Medium-Range Weather Forecasts in Reading, England.
The following airlines operate regular scheduled and charter flights to and from Malta:
Malta International Airport is served also by several buses operated by private transportation groups and public transport operated by Malta Public Transport. Malta Public Transport buses serve the airport. A mixture of Express and local services are available.:
The airport is located 5 km (3.1 mi) southwest of the capital, Valletta.On 5 January 1960, Vickers Viscount G-AMNY of British European Airways was damaged beyond economic repair at Luqa when it departed the runway after landing following a loss of hydraulic pressure.
On 25 November 1973, Luqa Airport witnessed the landing of KLM Flight 861. The aircraft, named "Mississippi", was a Boeing 747 hijacked by three young Arabs over Iraqi airspace on a scheduled Amsterdam-Tokyo flight with 247 passengers on board, after the hijackers threatened to blow up the plane when no country would grant landing permission. Most of the passengers and the eight stewardesses were released after negotiations with the Maltese Prime Minister Dom Mintoff, who argued with the hijackers that the plane could not possibly take off with both the passengers and the 27,000 gallons of fuel they had demanded, given the (then) short runway. With 11 passengers on board the jumbo jet left Malta to Dubai, where the incident ended without fatalities. The hijack was claimed by the Arab Nationalist Youth Organization.
On 23 November 1985, Luqa Airport was the scene of one of the deadliest aircraft hijackings in aviation history. EgyptAir Flight 648 was forced to land in Malta en–route to Libya. Unit 777 of the Egyptian counter-terrorism forces was dispatched to deal with the incident. Storming of the Boeing 737, reluctantly authorised by Maltese officials after five hostages were shot, resulted in the death of over 60 passengers plus several security personnel, aircrew and members of the hijackers, the Abu Nidal Organization.
Abdelbaset al-Megrahi was convicted for the Lockerbie bombing on the theory that he loaded a bomb onto Air Malta Flight KM180 Malta-Frankfurt at Luqa Airport which it is alleged found its way via the interline baggage system onto Pan Am Feeder Flight 103A Frankfurt-London and eventually onto Pan Am Flight 103 London -New York.
MLA was the origin airport of the Air Malta Flight 830 Malta-Istanbul hijack which ended in Cologne.
On February 21, 2011, two Libyan fighter pilots, both claiming to be colonels, defected and landed their Mirage F1 jets at the airport after refusing to carry out orders to fire upon a group of civilian Libyan protesters in Tripoli. On the same day two Eurocopter Super Puma helicopters registered in France also landed carrying seven French nationals who were under Italian contracts to work in Libya.
On October 24, 2016, a CAE Aviation Fairchild Merlin twin turboprop crashed on take-off a short distance from the runway. All five people on board were killed. The aircraft was taking part in a French-led surveillance operation to counter people smuggling.
On 23 December 2016 Afriqiyah Airways Flight 209, operated by an Airbus A320, was hijacked while en route from Sabha Airport to Tripoli International Airport in Libya, and diverted to Malta International.
In 2010 Malta International Airport was awarded the title of "Most Noteworthy Airport for a New Small Budget Programme" by Passenger Terminal World, the international review of airport design, technology, security, operations and management. The airport is classified among the top 15 airports worldwide, joining Dubai, Brussels, San Francisco, Stockholm, Heathrow, Changi, Barcelona and Vienna, which were also awarded.
The Passenger Terminal World Annual 2010 said "When a new terminal can cost US$1.5 billion it is hard to think that many wonderful airports are being developed for a fraction of that sum, but Malta Airport is one such. With its current development programme it is a small airport with big plans – improving the commercial offer, enlarging security and other essential services, and gaining plaudits from the country's population."
The company has picked up an international award for service quality: Best Airport in its category (1-5 million passengers) at the ACI Europe Awards and the Best Airport in Europe across all categories in the ACI Airport Service Quality (ASQ Survey).
In addition it also won Best Airport in its category (1-5 million passengers) at the ACI Europe Awards and the Best Airport in Europe across all categories in the ACI Airport Service Quality (ASQ Survey).