Airline sector needs to take off
E DII TO RII A L
This week marks a historical turning point for Cyprus in general and the travel industry in particular.
The new Cypriot national carrier, Cobalt, sees the arrival of two of its initial fleet of aircraft and the launch of a familiarisation trip to Athens for guests and associates from the tourism industry.
Furthermore, with at least another three aircraft arriving by the end of summer, Cyprus once again has the opportunity to reposition itself as a regional transport hub.
This is something that never happened during the glory days of Cyprus Airways, as other interests and political infighting was a constant stumbling block that prevented the Flying Moufflon from truly spreading its wings.
Now, a new airline plans to expand its route network to a dozen short-haul destinations, all on private initiative and without the intervention of trade unions that had become the anathema of business development in the past two decades.
If the government and all political parties want to see a real revival of the economy, then they should put aside their petty differences and work towards creating jobs, especially where there is great demand.
The fact that six control counters at Paphos airport are still unmanned, leading to hour-long queues just to get your passport checked, is causing irreparable damage to our image as a tourist destination. This is a matter that should have been resolved with an executive decision three months ago, when the problem first erupted. Letting it drag on for so long is malicious, to say the least.
If Cyprus expects to host a record number of tourist arrivals this year, halfway between the 2.5 mln and 3 mln figure, then it ought to get its act together and offer an impeccable service. The fact that air traffic controllers were on the verge this week of declaring a fresh strike is simply the fault of the outgoing incompetent parliament that dragged its feet on banning labour action in essential services, simply to secure votes.
The new parliament should show guts from day one and pass the long overdue law before the tourist season kicks in and the economy is once again held hostage to union antics.
On the other hand, with Limassol port finally finding a sponsor, the transport and cargo sector should once again pick up.
And if the Transport Minister sees that airlines are not utilising their air operating licenses to non-EU destinations, he should recall them immediately and offer them to more competent airlines, as such activity will increase turnover at Larnaca airport and transform it into a proper transit hub, one that will create more jobs and benefit all aspects of the local economy.