Located halfway between northern Africa and Europe, Malta’s geographical position in the heart of the Mediterranean has historically been of great strategic value for traders, merchants, and military powers.
In the 1920s, less than two decades after the first successful human flight took place, civil aviation had already arrived in Malta, when the islands were still under British rule.
Malta’s first civil airfield was constructed at Ta’ Qali. Others, including one at Ħal Far, shortly followed. These were severely battered during the Second World War; civil operations subsequently centred on the one at Luqa airport.
More passengers and aircraft movements necessitated the construction of a civil air terminal in 1956. The British Government mainly financed what was at the time a Lm300,000 (€700,000) project. Malta’s new passenger air terminal at Luqa was inaugurated on March 31, 1958 by Sir Robert Laycock, then Governor of Malta. It consisted of two floors and included basic facilities such as a restaurant, post office, cable and wireless office, and viewing balcony – a far cry from the bustling, multifaceted destination that Malta International Airport has developed into today.
Malta airport traffic increased consistently, and new airlines with larger aircraft began operating in Malta. The introduction of jets made flying times shorter and, as a result, more people became interested in air travel.
In October 1977, a new and longer runway was developed in Malta. Airport construction extended and refurbished the air terminal, which refocused on departures. Lounges for arrivals and VIPs were also added.
This refurbishment was a step in the right direction but still lacked certain essential facilities. Following a change in Government in 1987, the new administration decided that the 35-year- old terminal was past its time and gave the green light for the construction of a new air terminal along Park 9.
In the meantime, the government also embarked on another upgrade of the old air terminal. Updated airport facilities included air conditioning, modern baggage carousels, flight information monitors, computerised check-in desks, new floors, and additional retail outlets (including a larger duty free area).
The present air terminal was inaugurated in 1992, just 29 months after the foundation stone was laid in September 1989. Malta International Airport became fully operational on March 25, 1992, and the old Luqa airport terminal was effectively closed down after 35 years in service.
The national value of Malta’s airport and its activities is well appreciated locally, where it is a standard-bearer for progress, technological advancement, and management innovation. In this regard, Malta International Airport aims to serve as a role model and force for change in Malta’s civil aviation industry.
In July 2002, after expending considerable time and investment on a robust and successful operation, the government of Malta sold 40% of its equity to the Malta Mediterranean Link Consortium Ltd and a further 40% to the general public. The move to full privatization marked the start of a new chapter for Malta International Airport. Malta’s worldwide connection continues to improve, thanks to the airport’s commitment to innovation and tradition.