What do MPs not un­der­stand about CAIR?


Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

The chair­man of the trou­bled na­tional car­rier has been called by par­lia­ment to give deputies what they per­ceive to be a jus­ti­fied re­sponse to the 30-mil­lion­dol­lar ques­tion: why sell the slots at Heathrow air­port?

Per­haps, the an­swer should be “why not”? Some cool-headed com­men­ta­tors have sup­ported Cyprus Air­ways’ de­ci­sion to let go of its most prized as­sets, as the state-con­trolled air­line turns to al­ter­na­tive hubs, both in the U.K. and else­where.

By low­er­ing its costs and match­ing that with lower fares, the air­line could start be­com­ing com­pet­i­tive once again, mak­ing it worth­while for trav­el­ers to chose the once glo­ri­ous ‘Fly­ing Mouf­flon’, which over years of po­lit­i­cal and union abuse has been de­moted to a vil­lage bus with wings.

A lower cost also means a quicker turn­around if the Euro­pean Com­mis­sion ap­proves the state-aid re­quest for about 100 mln eu­ros in govern­ment fund­ing and sub­si­dies, with the air­line look­ing to re­new its fleet and in­tro­duce more ef­fi­cient air­craft. Along the way, it could start hir­ing once again and seek routes with a higher prof­itabil­ity.

Mov­ing away from Europe’s busiest air­port may have its dis­ad­van­tages, but at the end of the day, shift­ing to cheaper-to-use air­ports could re­sult in more flex­i­bil­ity when it comes to ar­rival and de­par­ture times. It will be able to com­pete head-on with budget air­lines and re­turn to the good old days of pro­vid­ing Cyprus-des­ti­na­tion tour oper­a­tors bet­ter seat al­lo­ca­tions and deals, ef­fec­tively help­ing to boost the tourism traf­fic to the is­land.

Cyprus Air­ways has not, as yet, been in­cluded in any of the three global al­liances, mainly be­cause of its rocky fi­nan­cial state and an i mage that is pro­jected of an age­ing and un­co­op­er­a­tive staff. Fresh funds would also al­low the com­pany to in­vest in new tech­nolo­gies, bet­ter mar­ket­ing and train­ing of its ground and cabin, many of whom have for­got­ten what it means to be po­lite.

New em­ploy­ment terms would also mean that CAIR would no longer be re­garded as the haunt­ing ground for po­lit­i­cal par­ties who have for decades used the air­line to place rel­a­tives or seek other favours.

What MPs should ask chair­man Tony An­to­niou on Fri­day is “what will it take to make Cyprus Air­ways prof­itable and proud again?” or even “are you will­ing to snub govern­ment and union pres­sures for the true ben­e­fit of the com­pany and its fu­ture?”

Let’s see if our MPs are se­ri­ous enough.

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