Ryanair Holdings has agreed a deal to acquire Malta Air, allowing the group to grow its presence in Malta and access additional non-EU markets.
The group has pledged to expand the Maltese start-up’s fleet of six B737 aircraft to 10 over the next three years and create more than 350 jobs.
Ryanair will also transfer aircraft from France, Italy and Germany onto its Maltese AOC so crews pay their income tax locally rather than in Ireland.
Michael O’Leary, Ryanair chief executive, said: “Malta Air will proudly fly the Maltese name and flag to more than 60 destinations across Europe and North Africa as we look to grow our Maltese-based fleet, routes, traffic and jobs over the next three years.”
O’Leary added the group would continue to work closely with the Malta Tourism Authority to grow year-round connections throughout Europe supporting increased tourism, business and jobs in Malta.
In total, Ryanair hopes to register more than 50 aircraft in Malta. Potential new, or growth, markets for the group include North Africa.
The airline will also transfer 200 Malta-based crew onto local contracts to ensure their tax is paid locally. Its Malta-based fleet, meanwhile, will be rebranded in Maltese colours.
Konrad Mizzi, Maltese minister for tourism, added: "The relationship between Ryanair and Malta has evolved into a successful collaboration.
“We welcome Ryanair’s commitment to operate and grow a fully fledged Malta-based airline which will contribute in a large way to the country’s development."
Ryanair last year partnered with competitor Air Malta to sell 21 routes across 14 countries through the Ryanair website – including Tunisia, Morocco and Israel.
The airline launched new routes to Malta last year, including from Exeter airport.