Min­is­ter says air con­nec­tiv­ity ‘could be higher’

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - FRONT PAGE -

Air con­nec­tiv­ity with the rest of the world is quite high, but should be even higher, ac­cord­ing to Trans­port Min­is­ter Mar­ios Deme­tri­ades.

How­ever, con­sid­er­ing that Cyprus is highly de­pen­dent on tourism and for­eign air­lines op­er­at­ing on the is­land, the Min­is­ter dur­ing a public con­sul­ta­tion on Mon­day that air traf­fic in Cyprus has not been af­fected by the clo­sure of Cyprus Air­ways ear­lier this year.

For the pe­riod un­til June 15, ac­cord­ing to fig­ures com­piled by air­ports op­er­a­tor Her­mes, air traf­fic in­creased by 3.8% com­pared to the same pe­riod last year, while to­tal air traf­fic will be around 7.3 to 7.4 mln pas­sen­gers for the whole year based on the year-to-date fig­ure of 2.6 mln up to June 15.

Ac­cord­ing to the Min­is­ter, 2015 air traf­fic is ex­pected to de­cline slightly com­pared to last year, pos­si­bly reg­is­ter­ing zero growth be­cause of the de­cline in visi­tors from the Rus­sian mar­ket.

Deme­tri­ades said that 70 air­lines op­er­ate now in and out of Cyprus, with more than 130 routes, fly­ing to 40 coun­tries.

“It is im­por­tant that we are not de­pen­dent on only one air­line,” the Min­is­ter said, adding that none of the com­pa­nies holds a mar­ket share of over 15%.

Deme­tri­ades said the gov­ern­ment is im­ple­ment­ing a new strat­egy in re­la­tion to the coun­try’s air con­nec­tiv­ity which in­cludes a spe­cific ac­tion plan to achieve lib­er­al­i­sa­tion of bi­lat­eral air agree­ments with a num­ber of third coun­tries and to re­move all ex­ist­ing lim­i­ta­tions in re­la­tion to the num­ber of des­ig­nated air­lines, fre­quen­cies, air­craft types, loads and also to grant fifth free­dom rights.

The Min­is­ter said that Cyprus has so far signed a new agree­ment with Bahrain and is ex­pected to sign an agree­ment soon with Oman, an agree­ment with Egypt is at an ad­vanced stage, while ne­go­ti­a­tions are un­der­way with Kuwait, Saudi Ara­bia, In­dia, China, Cuba, North Africa and Uzbek­istan.

He added that an EU-Is­rael ‘open skies’ agree­ment is be­ing grad­u­ally im­ple­mented and that Cyprus had granted com­mer­cial rights to Aegean, Ryanair and Wiz­zair, while the House of Rep­re­sen­ta­tives had re­cently rat­i­fied the EU-Jor­dan ‘open skies’ agree­ment.

Also, Aegean has been granted com­mer­cial rights for Qatar, the United Arab Emi­rates and Ukraine and the right to ex­er­cise fifth free­dom rights to Le­banon.

The Min­is­ter said that a new round of ne­go­ti­a­tions with Rus­sia will be­gin on July 14 and that Rus­sian char­ter air­lines will have the right to sell in­di­vid­ual seats, up to 50 per flight, in or­der to cover avail­able seats from the Rus­sian mar­ket and since there is an in­crease de­mand for re­tail ticket sales.

He also noted that there are new op­por­tu­ni­ties in mar­kets such as the Mid­dle East, Asia and Eastern Europe.

“We have given some in­cen­tives to air­lines through the projects we im­ple­ment with Her­mes. We can do even more,” he said.

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