Aegean Airlines eyes Cyprus hub, Paphos new route
With interest to invest in the troubled national carrier Cyprus Airways dwindling by the day, Aegean Airlines has decided to speed up its plans for a regional hub on the island.
A pending ruling from the European Commission is expected to determine whether the nearly 100 mln euros in aid provided to the ailing airline was legal and if not, the company would not be able to pay it back, effectively making it bankrupt.
Aegean, which together with Ryanair were the only two airlines that remained in a long bidding process for CAIR’s privatisation, has started placing advertisements in the local press looking to hire pilots, cabin crew and ground staff to be based in Cyprus.
Furthermore, the Greek carrier’s Vice President, Eftychios Vasilakis, said during a press briefing in Heraklion, Crete last week that Aegean was looking to go “on its own”, comments that were quickly welcomed by the Paphos Regional Board of Tourism.
“Cyprus (Airways) is in a process where the government, I think, has realised it can no longer support because of cost and conditions set by the European Union,” Vasilakis said, in announcing the airline’s new flight plans and marking the first anniversary of the merger with Olympic.
“It is a company that has practically run out of money and the ability to continue independently. And the state is moving along the same lines of what happened five years ago with Olympic, that is they are asking for interest for parts of its operations. As you know, in the final process it is just Ryanair and us. The main component is the brand.”
Vasilakis added that “Aegean is interested in the development out of Cyprus. You can see the maps. We believe that Cyprus is an extension of Greece, as practically we are of the same nation, but the activities from there interest us a lot.”
“If we are to do it independently or through a collaboration, time will show. What is a fact is that we intend to grow from Cyprus, this is important for us and we are looking to see which is the best way to do this.”
Both Aegean and Ryanair had submitted non-cash bids for the 6-aircraft Cyprus Airways, that has been reducing its route network and selling all available assets due to an excessive payroll that refuses to come down because of strong union influence over the island’s political parties. Both wanted to get their hands on CAIR’s licenses to operate to non-EU destinations that are not covered by the “open skies” policy and primarily to Russia and the Middle East.
Ryanair already uses Paphos as a hub and said that if allowed to take over Cyprus Airways, it would triple the passenger turnover to and from the island.
Aegean announced 16 new destinations for 2015 and six regional hubs, including Larnaca.
The Paphos Regional Board of Tourism hailed Aegean’s decision to launch a new route between Athens and Paphos in April next year to be operated four times a week.
“This will be a boost for our jobs market and will contribute to more tourist arrivals to Paphos and the island in general,” the PRBT said.
“Paphos will also benefit from feeder traffic arriving via Athens airport from other destinations in the airline’s network. We welcome Aegean as this is a critical period for our region’s economy.”