Air Malta recently introduced an “administration fee” of €10 (or £10) per person per flight. Frankly, this is a Ryanair-esque tactic to prise additional “easy” cash from you (and even Ryanair have improved on this front recently). To use a very British example, it is little different to you taking a jumper from Marks & Spencer to the cashier, then being charged for the jumper plus a €10 administration fee.
Notably, the upshot of this €10/£10 per person charge is that it often means Air Malta economy flights are substantially cheaper if you do not book them on airmalta.com. Let us explain…
The best way to highlight this surprising price discrepancy is by example. I set out below a sample “long weekend” return flight from Heathrow to Malta for the first six months of 2014, comparing Air Malta’s economy website prices with Amex travel and lastminute.com’s Air Malta prices (all for exactly the same flights).
(All prices were correct at the time of writing, but are obviously subject to change: in any event they are really intended as illustrations, rather than indicators of particularly good fares).
- Out: 18 Jan/Return: 21 Jan
- Air Malta: £170.18
- lastminute.com: £163.90 (£6.28 (3.7%) saving per person)
- Amex Travel: £159.90 (£10.28 (6%) saving per person)
- Out: 15 Feb/Return: 18 Feb
- Air Malta: £214.18
- lastminute.com: £207.90 (£6.28 (3%) saving per person)
- Amex Travel: £203.90 (£10.28 (4.8%) saving per person)
- Out: 15 March/Return: 18 March
- Air Malta: £160.18
- lastminute.com: £153.90 (£6.28 (4%) saving per person)
- Amex Travel: £149.90 (£10.28 (6.5%) saving per person)
- Out: 19 April/Return: 22 April
- Air Malta: £282.18
- lastminute.com: £275.90 (£6.28/2.2% saving per person)
- Amex Travel: £271.90 (£10.28 (3.7%) saving per person)
- Out: 17 May/Return: 20 May
- Air Malta: £157.18
- lastminute.com: £150.90 (£6.28 (4%) saving per person)
- Amex Travel: £146.90 (£10.28 (6.5%) saving per person)
- Out: 14 June/Return: 17 June
- Air Malta: £162.18
- lastminute.com: £155.90 (£6.28 (3.9%) saving per person)
- Amex Travel: £151.90 (£10.28 (6.4%) saving per person)
So, the conclusion from the above is quite clear – book with Amex Travel, and you will save £10.28 per person on Air Malta economy flights. Plus, if you are an American Express cardholder, you will earn 2 Membership Reward points (essentially 2 Avios, for relevant points purposes) per £1 spent.
While the fare discrepancies are smaller, the same appears to be true where you’re booking flights from Malta, although in these circumstances lastminute.com appears to be the cheapest option. The key issue here is that you will need to compare a Euro fare to a GBP fare. However, the fares do remain cheaper when converted. For example, a return flight from Malta to Heathrow in March 2014 converts as follows:
- Out: 15 March/Return: 18 March
- Air Malta: €171.60
- lastminute.com: €167.86, converted from £139.90 (€3.74 (2.2%) saving per person)
- Amex Travel: €169.80, converted from £140.90 (€1.80 (1.05%) saving per person)
Yes. It does appear that airmalta.com is consistently cheapest for business class fares. We do however understand that on occasion Amex Travel undercuts Air Malta (and the others) on business class fares, but there were no examples of this in our sample dates above. Nevertheless, it is worth reviewing the competing prices prior to booking on airmalta.com – plus you will earn additional Membership Rewards points for any booking with Amex travel.
Obviously we can’t compare every Air Malta fare to every lastminute.com, Travelocity, Expedia etc etc fare, but there is a very simple lesson from this – shop around. Do not assume (although it would be reasonable to) that just because you are buying “direct” from Air Malta, you are getting the best price. The one area where Air Malta probably will undercut everybody is where they offer a discount code which needs to be entered on airmalta.com, but there are none currently available. Of course, if Air Malta removed their £10 administration fee on all the above flights, they would immediately become cheaper than lastminute.com, and more or less level pegging with Amex Travel (and indeed cheapest for Malta departure flights).
As an important additional aside, the administration fee is also non-refundable, even on a fully flexible ticket. So, if you book a family of four on a (considerably more expensive) flexible ticket and then need to refund, you will still be charged €40/£40.
Commission structures in the travel sector are often incredibly complex. However, the basic assumption has to be that Air Malta also pays third parties such as lastminute.com a commission on flight bookings, which only adds to the reasons why it makes very little sense that Air Malta flights are cheaper on these sites.
These findings are unexpected, and disappointing from an Air Malta perspective. Frankly,the best response from Air Malta would be to either abolish the punitive “administration fee” (although that would still leave the Amex Travel flights cheaper!), or offer a price match.
(With thanks to gnarlyoldgoatdude for the Amex Travel tip)