This week, the Maltese government announced it would allow easyJet and Ryanair to launch flights from the UK and elsewhere in northern Europe to the island in the middle of the Mediterranean. Ryanair has already started selling tickets for its new daily service from Luton to Malta, which begins on 31 October.
"We've got to move with the times," said Marquis Nicolas de Piro, a leading member of the island's aristocracy. Malta depends heavily on tourism, but visitor numbers have dwindled recently. Despite the republic's accession to the EU, the government in Valletta has not embraced low-cost aviation with the enthusiasm shown by many other European countries.
Sources in Malta insist that easyJet is also planning a service from Luton, but a spokeswoman for the airline said that negotiations were at an early stage: "No decisions have been made".
At present, the lowest fares on Air Malta and British Airways are around £80 return. This week, Ryanair has been selling return flights for £31. Air Malta has been close to bankruptcy, which is one reason why the government has been slow to open up the skies.
"This is the greatest thing that could happen to Malta," said Peter Darmanin, proprietor of the island's leading restaurant, the San Giuliano.
"The people who fly on low-costs are usually better-spending clients - they eat out often, and spend on culture and arts." At present, the bulk of Malta's visitors are package holidaymakers.
Some islanders fear that opening up the island to low-cost airlines could attract tourists interested only in cheap beer and sunshine. But Marquis di Piro - whose ancestral home in the capital, the Casa Rocca Piccola, is open to the public - said: "This is part of progress, and to deny low-cost flights is like rejecting colour television."
Jordan tourists warned
Following the killing of a British tourist in the Jordanian capital, Amman, the Foreign Office has urged British travellers to avoid the city centre after Friday prayers. The official travel advice warns "There is a high threat from terrorism in Jordan".
Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs is even more strident in its advice to travellers.
"The central business and embassy districts of Amman ... and key transport infrastructure are also possible targets", says the government in Canberra.
Australia's travel advice also warns that hotels popular with foreign visitors, especially in Amman, Aqaba and the Dead Sea, could be next to be targetted by terrorist groups:
"We continue to receive reports that terrorists may be planning attacks in Jordan against Westerners and places frequented by Westerners."Reuse content