High airfares post-Cobalt not ready to land
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.