Aegean Air­lines eyes Cyprus hub, Paphos new route

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

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.”

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