New air­line ‘in­evitable’

Cyprus Today - - FRONT PAGE - By KEREM HASAN

THE es­tab­lish­ment of a new “na­tional car­rier” is “in­evitable”, Tourism and En­vi­ron­ment Min­is­ter Fikret Ataoğlu said this week, af­ter an air­line an­nounced it was ax­e­ing a quar­ter of its sched­uled flights to the TRNC.

Turkey’s At­lasGlobal, for­merly known as At­las­jet, is to re­duce the num­ber of flights to Er­can air­port from 32 to 24 per week as of April 25, it was con­firmed on Tues­day.

The an­nounce­ment from the TRNC’s Trans­port and Pub­lic Works Min­istry came af­ter re­ports in the Turk­ish Cypriot press wrongly

claimed the air­line was pulling out of North Cyprus com­pletely.

An At­lasGlobal spokesman said flights to and from Lon­don’s Stansted air­port via İs­tan­bul were not af­fected.

Asked about the is­sue dur­ing a TV in­ter­view, Mr Ataoğlu said: “The process from now on makes the need to form a na­tional car­rier in­evitable.”

Cyprus Turk­ish Air­lines, which had been the TRNC’s only na­tional air­line, went bust in June 2010.

Prime Min­is­ter Tu­fan Erhür­man and Turk­ish Deputy Prime Min­is­ter in charge of Cyprus af­fairs Re­cep Ak­dağ dis­cussed the At­lasGlobal de­ci­sion dur­ing a re­cent meet­ing.

The move by At­lasGlobal was crit­i­cised by Turk­ish Cypriot tourism bosses, who said it could dam­age the TRNC econ­omy and lead to fare rises.

“For any air­line to make a sud­den an­nounce­ment that it will de­crease its flights . . . is very bad . . . be­cause it means fewer people com­ing to the coun­try via Er­can air­port,” Cyprus Turk­ish Travel Agents’ Union chair­man Erkan Kilim said.

“We are al­ready fac­ing flight em­bar­goes . . . and there is de­mand from the near-100,000 stu­dents study­ing here, busi­ness­men and tourists.”

He said he backed calls by Mr Ataoğlu for a new na­tional car­rier, which he said should be a “pri­vate-pub­lic part­ner­ship” that could get off the ground with three rented air­craft.

Cyprus Turk­ish Cham­ber of Com­merce (UK) pres­i­dent and owner of Cyprus Par­adise travel agency Muham­met Yaşarata told Cyprus To­day: “Our own na­tional car­rier . . . is the only long-term so­lu­tion to un­sta­ble ticket prices and air­lines hold­ing the TRNC to ran­som, even if un­in­ten­tion­ally.”

Former CTA head Zeki Ziya, who rep­re­sents Pe­ga­sus Air­lines in the TRNC, claimed, how­ever, that any new air­line was un­fea­si­ble be­cause it would have to sus­tain losses of “$150 mil­lion in the first two years” of op­er­a­tion be­fore it could be­come prof­itable.

Former head of the Cyprus Turk­ish Hote­liers’ Union Mehmet Dol­macı poured scorn on the na­tional air­line pro­posal, stress­ing that the gov­ern­ment should in­stead fo­cus on mak­ing Er­can air­port more at­trac­tive to air­lines.

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