We departed on the morning of Dec, 24th from London Southend with slight delay but the captain told us that thanks to favorable winds we would arrive earlier in Catania (Sicily). When flying over the city of Palermo the pilot announced that due to Mount Etna eruption the airport of Catania would have been closed and we would land in Malta. We were all surprised: there are at the least 5 airports nearby Catania (Palermo, Comiso, Trapani, Reggio Calabria, Lamezia Terme), all suitable for a transfer by bus but this airline decided to land in Malta, (a tiny island surrounded by sea): I can imagine that RyanAir would not have decided to go back to Ireland nor Easyjet to UK. Soon after the captain announced that we would land to Comiso (Sicily) so we proceeded: when at a few feet from the ground the airplane gained again altitude and our hopes were again broke by the announcement that because of the strong winds it was not possible to land in Comiso and would proceed to Malta: other flights landed at the same time in Comiso so I don’t believe it was not possible but probably the pilots were not able to do the maneuver. We thought that we would have just a short delay: as soon as we spoke with the Luqa airport AirMalta ground staff and the Info kiosk staff we realized that we would not have any change to spend our Christmas with our families. Air Malta staff appeared unaware of our redirected flight and was unable to answer our requests for assistance. Malta is connected regularly via ferries and speedy boats to Sicily but the Air Malta staff told us that there would have been an announcement in 20 minutes time. Twenty minutes passed and so 40 and so 1 hour and the staff from the help desk were abandoning their seats till when there was no staff at the front office. Passengers were worried, and we started asking for bottles of water and lunch voucher but they kept saying there would be an announcement in a minutes. We could have been transferred to Sicily by ferry boat or speedy boats but instead Air Malta spending time agreeing a strategy: useless to contact them by phone as the operators were keeping saying that the number was only for reservations. After 2 hours standing up, without drinking nor eating, a person (it is impossible to say if he was from Air Malta or from the airport because did not have any identification nor introduced himself) told us that we would have the possibility to go on a flight to Rome but that we would have to arrange our transfer by ourselves: I don’t know the level of education in Malta but the fact you arrive in Rome doesn’t mean you are close to Sicily. All of this on Christmas Eve, when all transportations are fully booked. All passengers agreed that we was not an option and, frustrated, angry and stressed by the lack of assistance received started talking with the front desk until an answer would have given. After an hour the staff told us to move at the check in desk for the flight to Rome that would land in Catania first. We moved at the check-in desk but the staff at the desk was unaware that would land to Catania and denied us to check in. After 45 minutes standing up in front of the desk the first passenger received the boarding pass. The flight was planned for 19:00 but I received my boarding pass at around 19:45. No monitor was mentioning Catania nor our flight number was matching with any on the screen: we just knew we had a boarding pass for a flight in the past to Catania in our hands. Finally we have been advised to proceed to a gate and we went on the airplane at 8.30 pm. The flight was already in extreme delay and the crew was going back and forth counting the passengers on the flight (they were searching for someone and they did this five or six times) delaying even more the departure. We would have already been in Catania if the flight would have depart at 7 pm or 8 pm (it just 20 minutes flight) but at 9 pm the staff told us that we would have to get off the airplane because Catania Airport would be closed starting from 9.30 pm. The passengers didn’t want to follows this order and the captain went out from the cabin and called the police. The situation was unreal: children crying, an adult having a crisis that required the assistance from a doctor (among the passengers), the police shouting against passengers saying not to shout until when they started forcedly removing our hand. At that point we had no option than return to the terminal. Again here we passed 3 hours and we received no kind of assistance. At 11 pm the Air Malta desk told us that 2 flight would have been placed for us the day after to Comiso and that we would have to check-in at 5 am; they told us also that we would have been granted with a meal voucher and an hotel room: we were diffident after all the breached promises by Air Malta. After 30 minutes queuing I received my light meal for the Costa Coffee and a 1 single bedroom hotel room: the staff kept saying that we would have to use an app called Taxify to arrange our transfer from and to the airport. Nobody wanted to get stuck in Sliema (a town of Malta where the hotel was located) because of lack of transportation on Christmas day so the majority decided to sleep on the ground or in the seats of the Costa Coffee in the airport. It was impossible to ask for a quite environment as there was a Christmas concert in the airport so nobody managed to have a proper sleep. The time passed, very slow but at 5 am we queued at the check-in, we received our boarding pass and we arrived in Comiso at around 8.30 am on Christmas day; from Comiso a shuttle bus has been arranged to bring us to Catania airport, were our parents were waiting for us: it would have been impossible to reach our destinations without the help of our beloved on day without any kind of ground transportation.
We arrived at destination with more than 20 hours delay, we stood up on our feet for more than 8 hours, we did not drink for more than 5 hours, we did not eat for more than 9 hours, we will never trust Air Malta again.
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