Ryanair has agreed to purchase Malta Air, a start-up airline.
No financial details of the transaction were made public.
The European low-cost carrier will move the registration of its Malta-based fleet of six Boeing 737 aircraft to the islands.
The investment will allow Ryanair to grow its already sizable presence in Malta and access non-EU markets, largely in North Africa, from Malta.
Ryanair currently flies three million passengers annual to and from Malta.
Speaking in Malta Ryanair chief executive, Michael O’Leary, said: “Ryanair is pleased to welcome Malta Air to the Ryanair Group of airlines which now includes Buzz (Poland), Lauda (Austria), Malta Air, and Ryanair (Ireland).
“Malta Air will proudly fly the Maltese name and flag to over 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.”
He added: “Ryanair’s continued partnership with the Malta Tourism Authority will help drive forward the vision of prime minister Muscat and minister Mizzi to grow year-round connections to all corners of Europe which will support increased tourism, business and jobs in Malta.
“Ryanair appreciates the expertise of the Maltese Civil Aviation Directorate in licencing Malta Air to operate the Boeing 737 aircraft and we look forward to working closely with the Maltese authorities over the coming years as we hope to add over 50 more aircraft to the Maltese register.”
Completion on the deal is planned for the end of June.
When finalised Ryanair hopes to base 200 crew in Malta, with plans to grow the fleet to ten planes in three years, creating over 350 jobs.
Malta minister for tourism, Konrad Mizzi, said: “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.”
Malta Air will compete against state-owned Air Malta.
The two will offer different routes, with the national carrier focusing on flights to main airports in Europe, as well as the Middle East and Africa.