Ryanair is planning to expand its services to non-EU destinations after buying start-up Maltese airline Malta Air.

The Irish carrier said the investment would give it greater access to markets in North Africa.

Currently, Ryanair has a fleet of six Boeing 737 in Malta, which will be moved to the new airline.

It plans to grow its presence in Malta, where it has three million customers a year. Within three years it expects to have 10 aircraft based there, creating more than 350 jobs. It is expecting to fly to more than 60 destinations from the island.

Some 200 Malta-based crew will move onto local contracts as part of the deal, which is due to be completed by the end of the month. They will pay local Maltese taxes.

Aircraft will fly in Malta Air colours from summer 2020, said Ryanair, which is planning to move jets from France, Italy and Germany into the Malta air operator’s licence (AOC). The airline said this would allow crew to pay taxes in France, Italy and Germany rather than Ireland, where they are currently required to pay taxes under its Irish AOC.

Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said the airline plans to add more than 50 aircraft to the Maltese register in the future.

Speaking in Malta, he 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.

“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.”

Malta Minister for Tourism Konrad Mizzi 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.”