Originally I had planned a trip to Jordan during my week off in November, but during the course of the year my plans changed and I opted for a trip back to InterContinental Malta instead.
This time the best flight options where offered by Air Malta featuring a direct flight from Brussels, as we would be going for 4 nights we would be booking a slightly more expensive fare to allow us to take checked-in baggage and a seat selection beforehand. Compared to last time’s routing via Frankfurt on Lufthansa we would have some more time to enjoy in Malta but our flight to Malta would be leaving Brussels at a very early 8:10 am.
As this would require taking a the risk of the very first airport train from Antwerp we decided to go for the safer option of staying at the Crowne Plaza Brussels Airport hotel, making sure to be at the airport at 6:00 am.
With an airport arrival at 6:20 because of a delayed airport shuttle we went straight to the rather empty check-in desks of Air Malta and where able to drop off our bags swiftly. Even though I reserved seats 5A and 5C beforehand (window and aisle) the ‘system’” changed our seats into 5B and 5C, so no window seat on this leg, making me wonder why Air Malta offered a seat reservation beforehand if they do not honour this.
After clearing security we went to search for some breakfast as we had not eaten anything yet. As usual the lines at Panos where humongous, so we decided to try out the Diamond lounge instead. Since less people fly in business class nowadays airport lounges started offering paid lounge access for other people trying to get more custom, we already tried and approved of that system when we flew SAS to and from the USA on our 2016 American rail journey.
The Diamond lounge in Brussels offers an entry price of €32 per person, which is quite steep especially compared to the state and offerings of the lounge.There were several different seating options, but the décor was dated and the furniture worn and tired. There were signs in the lounge saying that they would soon start a renovation of the lounge to improve it, which absolutely was needed as it didn’t seem to have had a makeover since the A gates opened back in 2002.
Food and beverage wise there was not a huge offer either. On the beverage front it was still acceptable with various kinds of drinks on offer, unfortunately 1 of both coffee machines was out of order. Food wise it was really meagre with only a limited offer of some cold cuts, vegetables, a fruit salad and some yoghurt in the cooling. Besides that there was an even worse bakery offering of 2 types of very thick ‘sponge’ like bread (white and brown) and some croissants and pain au chocolat.
In my opinion the Diamond lounge is not worth the entry fee it asks at the moment, hopefully the renovation will be joined with an improved catering offer to make a visit worthwhile.
Right on boarding time as printed on the boarding pass we walked towards the gate and we could immediately join the queue for boarding, getting a friendly greeting from the cabin crew upon entering the aircraft. As there was still no one sitting in the window seat as we entered the plane we hoped the window seat would remain vacant throughout the flight, unfortunately a bit later the person assigned to the seat did show up.
Brussels (BRU) to Malta (MLA)
Flighttime 2 hours 45 minutes
Airbus A319 9H-AEJ
Originally delivered to Air Malta in april 2004
This morning flight to Malta was operated by Air Malta’s single Airbus A319, the smallest plane in their fleet. It used to fly for Air Atlantic and was painted in a hybrid paint, only having small Air Malta titles. The cabin still featured classic ‘thick’ and well-padded seats, with the front rows before the emergency exit even featuring adjustable headrests as these can be converted into Business Class. I reserved seats in row 5 hoping that we would still have Business class legroom, unfortunately the legroom was already in the minimal Economy distance and my knees touched the seat in front of me.
As todays flight only had 2 rows of Business Class we could move over to row 3 after departure after asking the cabin crew for permission.
Row 3 offers vastly more legroom and I was able to get comfortable for a short nap. The flight itself was rather uneventful, taking us over the Alps and the Mediterranean Sea before finally arriving at Malta. This year Air Malta introduced a new catering concept and meals and drinks are no longer complimentary in economy class, instead they offer a limited buy on board menu with rather reasonable prices.
On the plus side, they did pass through the cabin 2 times to make sure people could buy something they liked when they wanted to. Entertainment wise they showed some short clips on the overhead monitors and the air show the remainder of the time, in the seat pocket you also had their inflight magazine with a few interesting articles to read.
Contrary to last time de-boarding in Malta did not happen by bus but we were able to walk to the terminal on foot. After a short wait we gathered our bags and where off to the taxi rank for a taxi ride to one of my favourite hotels, the InterContinental MaltaUnfortunately my nice midweek holiday in Malta came to an end. After the taxi dropped us off at the airport we just went to the Air Malta check-in desk with the shortest queue and where able to drop off our bags in no-time. This time my pre-reserved seats 5D and 5F were honoured.
Last time I was in Malta they were doing some reconstruction works in the terminal, this time the works where finished and we could use a brand new and very efficient security check area. After clearing security we did some Christmas shopping in the duty free shop before finding a seat to wait for boarding to Commence.
Malta (MLA) to Brussels (BRU)
Flighttime 2 hours 55 minutes
Airbus A320-200 9H-AEI
Originally delivered to Air Malta in april 2004
Our flight tonight would be operated by Air Malta’s “Retro” A320, sporting the old Air Malta livery. Next door Air Malta’s sole A320NEO was parked, which I secretly hoped to be flying instead. Just like our arrival boarding this time did not use busses but we could just walk across the tarmac to the plane instead. The Cabin of the plane was similar to the one in the A319, with thick, comfortable and well padded seats.
As the flight was fully booked there was of course someone sitting in the middle seat, luckily a very friendly lady who was a bit disappointed that she was separated from her husband, occupying the middle seat at the other side of the aisle. Maybe Air Malta copied the Ryanair system of when you don’t pay more to pre-reserve seats you get lousy seats?
Once again the flight was relatively uneventful, with just some more turbulent areas en route, shaking up the airplane a bit. As we would be flying during dinner time we decided to try out the meal deal, for €10 you could have sandwich, a soft drink and a small snack which sounded like a fair deal to me. There were 4 different typed of sandwiches to choose from, 2 hot and 2 cold. The cabin crew first came around for “meal” orders before rolling out the cart for the main service. I ordered the Mozzarella Panini, which would be heated up in the plane’s oven.
When Mike wanted to order the same sandwich he was told it was already sold out as only 1 of each type of sandwich was loaded on the plane so he settled for a cold chicken sandwich instead. In my opinion just loading 1 sandwich of each variety is a bit low, considering the plane is return catered from Malta and we were seated in the second row of Economy this meant that a whole lot of passengers could be disappointed and have nothing to eat in the rest of the cabin and on the return flight.
As a side to my sandwich I selected the peach iced tea and a packet of crisps. The drink and crisps where brought when the main service cart was rolled through the cabin, where I also needed to pay the €10 for my meal deal. A bit later my Panini arrived, hot and straight out of the oven. Size wise it was very large and it sure was tasty, thus offering a very good price quality ratio. In my opinion Air Malta offers a very good buy on board product and they are definably worth it to order on board, hopefully they do cater more on other flights because just 1 sandwich of each is not enough.
Descend and touchdown was a straight in approach to Runway 25R in Brussels and it only took a short taxi to be parked at the A gates. After finishing the long walk we still had to wait an eternity for our bags to show up on the baggage belt, which unfortunately is typical for Brussels Airport.
Air Malta had a good product and they are a good option when flying to and from Malta, with very friendly and professional on-board staff you are in good hands when flying them.
Did you fly Air Malta and what did you think of them? And would you try out a paid lounge next time you fly? Let us know in the comments below!