The airport of Malta (MLA) serves the Maltese islands of Malta, Gozo and Comino. A small archipelago country that sits in the Mediterranean Sea between Italy's Sicily and North Africa's Tunisia.
Considering the number of Airlines from low cost to luxury that frequently fly to worldwide destinations, the airport is incredibly small, easy, comfortable and efficient. It is situated in Luqa on the main island of Malta. It is also the home of Malta's own airline, Air Malta,
On arrival to the airport, the aircraft will always disembark on the open tarmac. Great for using both the front and rear doors and when the weather is nice. Not so nice when it is cold, windy or raining, but this is probably the only downside to the airport, that and the pricing but we'll come to that later. Passengers will be greeted by a small airport bus with a few seats, luggage storage areas and plenty of handles for standing passengers. The bus will then go to the main airport terminal, of which there is only one, leaving passengers at either the Schengen or non-Schengen entrance depending on where the flight came in from.
There is then a short walk either through passport control or not, passing toilets, travel information and a welcoming fish tank advertising Malta's aquarium, to the luggage collection area. There, alongside the luggage carousels are airport staff, more toilets and a small shop. From here the exit leads everyone through the customs section and into the arrivals end of the airport.
Openly connected to the departures end there is a tourist information desk, cafe, shops and various transport services. There are Tallinja bus public transport services running frequently from right outside the airport terminal to various locations across Malta, including to the Cirkewwa ferry terminal for the Gozo channel ferry. There is a card payment only machine to purchase bus cards, there are a few options available so costs and benefits will depend on individual needs, otherwise single tickets can be purchased using cash or card on the bus. All tickets are valid for two hours to allow for any transfers. Timetables are displayed, buses generally leave on time, there is a route map on the actual bus shelter and the bus stops run along that walkway, not just from that shelter stop. The buses, however, do not run 24 hours. They start at approximately 05:00, finishing at around 22:00 – 23:00.
The majority of travellers into an airport probably tend to find their mode of transport and head to their home or destination even if that means jumping in a taxi (book your taxi online here). For the more travel savvy, cost effective, not in a hurry traveller that may prefer the bus but has arrived during the night, fear not for this is a comfortable and relaxed airport to spend some time. It is also very much a norm, nobody is judging here.
The airport does have a food court, comfortable seating areas and some not so comfortable seating areas. The soft seats and the food courts can be enjoyed until around maybe midnight when the airport security will come to inform you that the areas are about to be closed. No purchase is required to use the food area tables and chairs plus you can consume your own food and drinks.
When these areas become out of bounds head over to the far end of the departures to the Costa Coffee. Offering different styles of seating within four slightly different areas, one of which is outside so great for the smokers or those wanting some air, anyone is welcome to make themselves comfortable, even if that means stretching out and going to sleep, without the need to purchase anything.
Wi-Fi is offered within the airport plus Costa have their own. Toilet facilities remain open throughout the night. Malta airport also has a website which is frequently updated with information regarding the flight departures and arrivals, the local weather, a list of their shopping and dining outlets plus other useful information.
For those flying out, the departures from the airport are at the left side of the traditional style, light coloured terminal building. It is a pleasant looking airport, very Maltese with archways and modern windows the full length of the front. Once inside there is a souvenir, book and refreshments shop, coffee and snack places, a customer service desk, flight company help desks, toilets and of course the check-in and luggage drop desks.
At the right-hand end of the check-in desks there is the entrance up to the security check area where the boarding passes will be needed. This area cannot be entered more than three hours prior to the flight's scheduled departure time.
For those arriving during the night for an early departure, the same areas as covered above are available to get comfortable.
However, if arriving during the day just behind the boarding pass gate next to the food hall entrances and the soft seating area is a lift and some stairs that go up to the top floor. There is an observation tower where commercial and private aircraft of all sizes can be seen landing, taking off and taxiing across the tarmac. This is often a quiet area with some seating in both sunny and shaded areas. Other highlights that can also be seen across the skyline are shown on the glass window.
On the way to the observation area there are displays of interesting information regarding the airport. They showcase the team and their roles, show off their awards, explain the timeline of its development over the years and there is a model airport.
When the time comes to leave and the boarding pass has been scanned, the security area is on the first floor. Usually efficient with short queues and leaving time for browsing the duty-free shop on the way through to the gates. Besides all the usual airport shopping for tobacco products, alcohol, perfumes and beauty items, there is a vast range of local produce including traditional foods, drinks, souvenirs and gift items. As to be expected, they come at a price but for any last-minute purchases, there is the option.
Once in the departure lounge, this is where the airport can get busy. The seating area can often be quite full. There are a few places to eat and drink, including Malta's Hard Rock Cafe but these are also quite pricey, as are the shops. There is a piano in the seating area which anyone is welcome to play, not to worry of the standard either, people of all ages and abilities often have a little go.
For smokers there is a smoking area at the gate one end or for those looking to refill water bottles there are water fountains and a purified water machine by the toilets opposite gate nine.
Flights within Schengen that do not require any border control passport checks leave from the main departure area. Other flight passengers pass through passport control that can be seen at the end after gate nine. When boarding the flight, passengers will be taken by the small airport bus from the gate to the aircraft.
After take-off some stunning views can be seen and probably recognised across the islands, both day and night, as Malta with all her culture, history and natural beauty bids farewell. For now, anyway.