Shortly after the Second World War, several small private airlines were formed in Malta. Amongst these were The Malta Instone Airline, BAS (Malta) Ltd, and Malta Airlines. In 1947 the former two companies merged to form Air Malta Ltd in fierce competition with the latter. Eventually in 1951 Malta Airlines absorbed the operations of Air Malta Ltd and continued operating through an agreement with BEA until 1973. The owners of Air Malta Ltd used their real estate, staff and equipment to set up a ground handling company called MAS, Malta Aviation Services.
In the early 1970s the Maltese government made a call for an international airline partner to help set up an airline. Pakistan International Airlines (PIA) once regarded as Asia's best airline was selected and a new carrier set up. The name chosen for the new airline was similar to that of its forerunner, Air Malta Co Ltd, and was established on 31 March 1973. BEA was chartered to continue its Malta operations, this time for Air Malta, until Air Malta's first flight on 1 April 1974. Both Malta Airlines and Malta Aviation Services were taken over by the government and the private owners were given a shareholding in Air Malta Co. Ltd.
Air Malta started operations, with 2 wet leased Boeing 720Bs that served Rome, Tripoli, London, Manchester, Frankfurt and Paris from Malta. It later bought 3 more Boeing 720Bs and bought the original two.