New airline ‘inevitable’
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.