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Air Malta staff protest at new “bread and water” diet

We recently wrote a fairly scathing piece on Air Malta’s decision to remove hot meals and a choice of drinks from Economy Class, and instead serve a baguette and 500ml of water.

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Interestingly, Air Malta cabin crew have now been instructed by the Malta Union of Cabin Crew (UCC) to take limited industrial action as a result. The reason? The new “baguette and water” meal is also to be served to crew. According to the UCC, the collective agreement between the cabin crew and Air Malta states that crew have to be provided with “suitable meals”. Baguette and water is, apparently, not a “suitable meal”.

As a result, passengers on all Air Malta flights will now receive an even more limited service. Cabin crew will provide the free baguette and water, but the “wide selection of good quality food items, including hot”, that is supposed to be made available for purchase from cabin crew, will not be offered.

As things stand, and as we have previously stated, we are opposed to this development as things stand. Don’t get us wrong – we appreciate Air Malta has to adapt and make more money in order to survive. Our principal issue is that the move is quite simply a cut on the Economy Class service with no stated quid pro quo benefit, such as cheaper fares.

It just seems to be devaluing the appeal of Air Malta to travellers, who have a number of alternative options at both premium and budget level.

The move is clearly intended to make a bottom-line saving, so there is no indication that the cash spared will be used to reduce flight costs. We think this is very short-sighted, particularly with Ryanair a strong player in the Malta market. Budget service at premium airline prices does not strike us as a sustainable business model. Where the business model is seemingly already unsustainable, that is a touch worrying.

The PR on this was also handled badly – with Air Malta noting it would simultaneously upgrade meals in Business Class. Essentially a squeeze on Economy Class to benefit Business. Again, if prices are revised to reflect this, fair enough – but that has not been evident in any communication from air Malta to date.


4 Comments

  1. Bart Peters says:

    I disagree with your analysis that this is a degradation of the Air Malta service. I am happy that Air Malta has changed the food offering towards a baguette and a bottle of water. A good baguette is exactly what I want on board, in stead of the horrible hot meals previously offered. Together with a bottle of water this is a huge improvement in my opinion. I fly Air Malta 4 to 6 times per month and I applaud this change.
    I can understand that the crew needs a good hot meal on the sometimes long working days. And a responsible employer should provide this.

    • euflyer says:

      The hot meals versus baguette can be debated all day long, and I agree that the hot food is pretty poor. But will the baguette be any better? Have you seen the Economy bread roll? There’s also the loss of even basic fruit juice, Coke or Kinnie (!). You’re a seasoned flyer with Air Malta, too – my main concern is the casual traveller who will now compare Air Malta plus baguette and water (no hot meal, no other drink) against Ryanair plus nothing. The decision will now be much more heavily motivated by the fare difference, and we all know who the winner here will be.

      I really don’t disagree with the Aer Lingus approach of airlines moving to baguettes/snacks etc on short haul so they can compete with the budgets – but you then actually need to do that by reflecting the savings in the fares!

      Here’s what I think Air Malta should have done:

      – Changed the poor hot meals to a decent baguette in Economy: I don’t object to this per se
      – Simultaneously announced that the savings would enable them to review Economy Class fares to ensure that they remained as competitive as possible – or some other half decent justification for the apparent degrading of the service
      – NOT limited free drinks to just water. For goodness’ sake – a bottle of Sprite costs mere cents more than a bottle of water anyway – they could have limited it to the large-sized soft drink bottles only, poured into plastic cups for each serving. This would have avoided the appalling PR of publicly stating they were serving free “bread and water” only, which was a shocking bit of marketing
      – NOT simultaneously announced that they would be upgrading Business Class, which just emphasised the fact that the Economy Class passenger was taking a hit, while those savings were being passed on to those up front. Rather they should have more positively announced that they are continuing to offer a premium quality Business Class product, and detailed what that is without needing to make any connection with the Economy Class cuts.

      An interesting debate! We will see how it pans out…

  2. Lorraine says:

    Having flown to Malta last night, I can categorically state that the so-called baguette is neither a baguette nor good quality. It was just a little baguette-shaped roll (poor quality) which was only big enough to feed my hamster, filled with tuna/olives which was similarly poor quality. I’d estimate that the skinny little roll was no more than 5 inches long, at most. My husband and I were left hungry and angry. It’s bad enough that the flight cost us a lot, but to feed that to the crew is disgraceful. It is not a meal, and barely a snack.

    • euflyer says:

      Thanks for the message Lorraine – very interesting, if extremely disappointing (and depressingly inevitable).

      I actually flew BA from Malta for the first time at Christmas, and I have to say that I thought the cold snacks (and, of course, wide selection of free drinks) were excellent. The flight was cheaper than Air Malta, too.

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