REVEALED: Air Malta’s consultants got €80,000 a month pay rise after failing
Knighthood Global, the airline consultancy company contracted by the government to ‘save’ Air Malta, received a pay raise worth tens of thousands of euro per month despite completely missing its objective, a Freedom of Information request revealed.
The documents show that after Knighthood Global failed to restructure the national airline into profitability, their original fee of €120,000 per month was revised to €200,000 per month in a new contract for Air Malta’s shuttering and transition to a new airline.
A comparison of the contracts entered into in January 2022 and June 2022 respectively, shows that once it became apparent that Knighthood Global had failed to save Air Malta, not only were the consultants rehired but were given an €80,000 per month raise.
The situation, which has seen €4.5 million awarded to Knighthood Global in consultancy and subcontracting fees, raises questions on who sets the terms at the negotiating table and what degree of power has been afforded to the consultancy over the national airline and its replacement.
The January 2022 contract is preceded by another engagement of Knighthood Global’s services, dated June 2021. In its reply to The Shift’s FOI, Air Malta claimed that the letter of engagement, which “concerns aircraft leases”, was “covered by a non-disclosure agreement” and could not be provided.
On 18 January 2022, former Air Malta chairman David Curmi, who went on to become KM Malta Airline’s chairman, signed a letter of engagement with the United Arab Emirates subsidiary of Knighthood Global for the restructuring of Air Malta’s personnel and redrawing of its business plan in a bid to save the airline.
The six-month contract stipulated a fee of €120,000 per month, apart from subcontracting, accommodation and travel expenses.
Upon the contract’s expiry and following the consultancy’s apparent failure at saving the airline, another letter of engagement was signed between Curmi and Knighthood, this time “to support Air Malta and its shareholder regarding the planned transition from OldCo to NewCo.”
The contract, released by Finance Minister Clyde Caruana last October following a parliamentary question by opposition MP Paula Mifsud Bonnici, shows the fees were now bumped up to €200,000 per month, an €80,000 increase.
Amid a shaky start in the transition to the new airline, yet to adopt Air Malta’s name and livery as promised by Prime Minister Robert Abela and Finance Minister Clyde Caruana, The Shift revealed how Knighthood Global has additionally hoovered up €200,000 in accommodation and travel expenses since they were first engaged. Internal sources claim the actual figure is much higher.
James Hogan and James Rigney, the duo behind Knighthood Global, previously held CEO and CFO roles at UAE state airline Etihad, playing a key role in the unsuccessful attempt to buy out and revive Italian State airline Alitalia.
An analysis by The Shift of a 550-page court report from Hogan and Rigney’s criminal indictment concerning Alitalia’s failure shows that Air Malta copied many of Alitalia’s mistakes thanks to the same consultants.
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