Minister says air connectivity ‘could be higher’
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.