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Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Ten air­lines are ready to step in and fill the void cre­ated by the long-over­due demise of Cyprus Air­ways, after the na­tional car­rier shut down at mid­night on Fri­day when its fi­nal flight re­turned home to Lar­naca from Athens.

Al­ready, Greek op­er­a­tor Aegean Air­lines said on Tues­day that it is set­ting up a re­gional hub with a fleet of four Air­bus A320s, up from just one at present, and also leaves open the prospect of en­hanc­ing its pres­ence on the is­land.

The Euro­pean Com­pe­ti­tion Com­mis­sion ruled on Fri­day that more than EUR 100 mln re­ceived from the gov­ern­ment in the form of sub­si­dies and guar­an­tees since 2007, vi­o­lated state aid reg­u­la­tions and had to re­turn at least EUR 66 mln to the tax­payer, a task deemed fi­nan­cially im­pos­si­ble.

As a re­sult, the 96%-state owned car­rier was forced to shut down and its dwin­dling mar­ket share of 10% now up for grabs by more ef­fi­cient and com­pet­i­tive air­lines.

Dogged by decades of poor man­age­ment and ris­ing pay­rolls, the air­line was obliged to sell off its as­sets and stay afloat, re­duc­ing its fleet to just six air­craft and only nine routes, but still main­tain­ing a dis­pro­por­tion­ate staff of 560.

Aegean’s Vice Chair­man Efty­chios Vasilakis said in Nicosia on Tues­day that the aim is for the air­line to dou­ble its mar­ket share out of Cyprus from the present 6.5-7% to 14%, as it will carry 1.5 mln pas­sen­gers on 14 routes. The sum­mer sched­ule, start­ing in April, will see more flights to Athens and Thes­sa­loniki, as well as Paphos-Athens route and di­rect flights to Her­ak­lion (Crete) and Rhodes. In July and Au­gust it will also op­er­ate to Mykonos and San­torini, rais­ing daily op­er­a­tions be­tween Cyprus and Greece to nine.

Ac­cord­ing to ANT1 TV, Aegean and Ro­ma­nia’s low-cost Blue Air are keen to pick up Cyprus Air­ways’ traf­fic to and from Athens, Aegean and Euro­pean bud­get op­er­a­tor Ryanair want the Thes­sa­loniki and Her­ak­lion routes, Bri­tish Air­ways is ready to take over the London traf­fic, Air France-KLM and Aus­trian Air­lines want the Am­s­ter­dam route, Is­rael’s El Al and Arkia both are vy­ing for Tel Aviv, and Aegean wants the Moscow route.

The Greek car­rier, that to­gether with Ryanair, were the only two that ex­pressed some in­ter­est to take over Cyprus Air­ways in the gov­ern­ment’s pri­vati­sa­tion ef­fort last year, an­nounced that it will launch its Lar­naca-Tel Aviv daily sched­ule in March on

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