High air­fares post-Cobalt not ready to land

Financial Mirror (Cyprus) - - CYPRUS -

De­spite re­as­sur­ances from gov­ern­ment that other air­lines would step in to fill the void left by col­lapsed Cypriot car­rier Cobalt, air­fares have gone sky­wards.

It was ar­gued that prices would not go up, as air­lines would offer cheap ‘res­cue fares’ to trav­ellers, but the op­po­site has hap­pened.

Af­ter the clo­sure of Cobalt last week, air­fare have spiked, and it is vir­tu­ally im­pos­si­ble to find tick­ets for pop­u­lar des­ti­na­tions like Athens for less than EUR 300, and flights to Lon­don have also dou­bled in price.

It also seems that there is to be no drop in pre­mium prices this side of Christ­mas.

Tour oper­a­tor Top Kin­i­sis’ ex­ec­u­tive chair­man Akis Kelepeshis told Ac­tive Ra­dio that some air­lines have sched­uled more flights for Athens, Thes­sa­loniki, Lon­don, but this will not take ef­fect un­til Jan­uary.

How­ever, Cyprus Air­ways has de­cided to in­crease its num­ber of weekly flights to Greece, while an­other air­line has re­called its de­ci­sion to halt flights to and from Greece dur­ing the win­ter months.

The Cyprus-Greece Busi­ness As­so­ci­a­tion is among those protest­ing the sud­den jolt in fares and it has urged the gov­ern­ment to take im­me­di­ate ac­tion to rec­tify mat­ters.

Iosif Iosif, the pres­i­dent of the as­so­ci­a­tion, told the Fi­nan­cial Mir­ror that mem­bers of the as­so­ci­a­tion who travel fre­quently to and from Greece have en­coun­tered dif­fi­cul­ties not only be­cause of the high prices but be­cause sup­ply is scarce.

The as­so­ci­a­tion is urg­ing the gov­ern­ment to take ac­tion and pro­vide im­me­di­ate so­lu­tions.

Iosif added that the au­thor­i­ties can­not al­low the ex­ploita­tion of pas­sen­gers by the air­lines — who are in­vok­ing a short­age in sup­ply due to the clo­sure of Cobalt.

Ac­knowl­edg­ing that there is a se­ri­ous prob­lem with sup­ply, Iosif said that the Cyprus gov­ern­ment should ask air­lines to in­crease flights to and from Greece so as to in­crease sup­ply which will hold prices down.

He said that the air­lines them­selves should have added more flights in or­der to close the gap cre­ated by the clo­sure of Cobalt.

“Fur­ther­more, Her­mes Air­port has the re­spon­si­bil­ity to lo­cate and bring new air car­ri­ers to the is­land. Un­for­tu­nately, we do not have any in­for­ma­tion on ac­tions taken by the is­land’s air­ports’ oper­a­tor re­gard­ing the matter,” Iosif said.

Ac­cord­ing to an on­line in­ves­ti­ga­tion car­ried out by the Fi­nan­cial Mir­ror, a trav­eller want­ing to go to Athens on the last weekend of Novem­ber, could do so with Cobalt for only EUR 126 re­turn.

The cheap­est avail­able air fare for trav­ellers want­ing to book a re­turn trip to Athens costs EUR 250, while ticket prices dur­ing the cur­rent week, in some cases, ex­ceed EUR 400.

Mean­while, air­ports oper­a­tor Her­mes said that the mar­ket will reg­u­late the matter which is one of de­mand and sup­ply.

Maria Kouroupi from Her­mes Air­ports said that the prob­lem was made worse by the fact that both Oc­to­ber and Novem­ber are months with high traf­fic and that played a role in prices ris­ing.

“We ex­pect that with the ad­di­tion of flights for des­ti­na­tions cov­ered by Cobalt, from other com­pa­nies, sup­ply will in­crease, and prices will drop,” Kouroupi told the Fi­nan­cial Mir­ror.

The se­nior man­ager said Cyprus is a des­ti­na­tion see­ing an ever-grow­ing in­ter­est from air­lines, with the num­ber of flights to and from the is­land in­creas­ing year on year.

“Her­mes im­me­di­ately re­acted and launched ef­forts to con­tact air­lines to take over the in­ter­rupted routes as soon as pos­si­ble and to even add new routes to the pro­gramme of our two air­ports,” said Kouroupi.

Her­mes ex­pects flights to Cyprus to in­crease with air­lines al­ready fly­ing to Lar­naca and Paphos air­ports in­creas­ing their flights.

“Al­ready, there is in­ter­est from com­pa­nies to fill the gap left by Cobalt. Bri­tish Air­ways, for ex­am­ple, has an­nounced the ad­di­tion of a third daily flight from Heathrow for the sum­mer sea­son of 2019, while Cyprus Air­ways has now added flights to Thes­sa­loniki to its sched­ule and is in­creas­ing flights to Athens,” said Kouroupi.

Lar­naca-based Cobalt op­er­ated over a dozen flights daily to pop­u­lar routes in­clud­ing Athens and Lon­don – mov­ing over 120,000 pas­sen­gers a year to more than 20 des­ti­na­tions. It closed down, re­port­edly with losses of EUR 50 mln, hav­ing failed to find a res­cue in­vestor.

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