By Nathan Morley
So far, out of a desire not to spoil anyone’s Sunday, this column has avoided the subject of Cyprus Airways.
However, as the litany of losses continues, the airline’s latest catastrophe has disgruntled staff publicly bemoaning that management could not be bothered to inform them that their salaries had been delayed.
This new twist has revealed deeper splits between management and employees. Workers claim they have been hanging on for their pay cheques – and now pilots have said they would go to court to overturn the airline’s decision to reduce its contribution to the workers’ provident fund.
These latest embarrassments come just weeks after the airlines credibility took a hammering after a lucrative agreement to flog the Heathrow slot to Qatar Airways fell through, due to a monumental blunder after the airline leaked vital information to the press – resulting in another carrier proposing a better deal.
As the airline’s dirty laundry is spilled over the airwaves of local TV and radio, the only clear winners are their growing list of rivals.
I hate knocking Cyprus Airways as I have many fond memories of travelling with them during the early 1990s.
In those days every flight seemed to be a cheerful, chatty experience, with half of the passengers lolling around at the back of the cabin smoking, laughing and taking full advantage of the free trolley bar.
It was a time when the existence of the airline was a big issue that actually mattered to people, but alas it no longer has a place in the travelling public’s imagination.
Politicians that spend their time railing about the need for a state carrier need to know that Cyprus Airways customers have been steadily deserting to cut-rate carriers like Austrian, Norwegian, Condor, Monarch, Easy Jet and Aegean for a long time.
For the first time, travellers in Cyprus have better choices.
Faced with such competition, you would expect Cyprus Airways to fight back for all they are worth – instead we have a divided workforce zapping the confidence of their few remaining customers.
I am sure that flying an airline staffed by a group of very angry people isn’t likely going to improve the customer service level either.
Good airlines offer a good deal for the flying public and nothing has threatened the survival of Cyprus Airways more than their failure to offer affordable air fares.
Their dire selection of routes and the bizarre ticketing website – which presents attractive ticket prices – then, adds almost the equivalent figure in taxes is downright infuriating.
Hence if you buy your flight to London today (09.02.2014) with Cyprus Airways, a ticket would cost €278.00 – then click checkout and total price is €438.91 (taxes €156.91).
The giveaway price for the same flight with Easy Jet amounts to just €286.66.
The fare for a return flight to Athens is just €64, but with ‘taxes and fees’ of over 200 per cent tallying at €139.19 the final price shoots up to €207.19
The taxes on Cyprus Airways tickets are simply disproportionate in cost to the product being sold and the ludicrous website offering fares which bear no resemblance to the final cost is just a form of primitive hoodwinking.
Profit is usually the simple subtraction of cost from revenue. The airline will continue to be wracked by losses until efficiency improves and fares are reduced with the focus on shuttling in tourists and connecting Larnaca to major European destinations.
The strategy of most airlines has been to concentrate on money-making routes, so it seems astonishing that with the economy so reliant on tourism CY continue scheduled flights to destinations such as Bahrain, Beirut and Zurich.
As if that was not bad enough, the cost-cutting restructuring of the airline continues at grindingly slow pace.
According to some reports it will last until 2017 – but it does not appear to take account of what-ifs. Like what if you go bankrupt next week? What if people don’t trust you anymore? Can you guarantee if I buy a flight for September you will still be in business?
To make matters worse, the European Commission announced that regulators had opened an in-depth probe into the restructuring plans.
The Commission said it would look into whether an aid package of €102.9 million was in line with EU state aid rules and whether the plan would allow the airline to survive without continued state support.
A so-called Plan B is to be implemented if the Commission turns down the restructuring – which would almost certainly result in the airline closing down immediately.
And furthermore, it’s no secret that the Commission doubts that the restructuring plan will ensure the carrier’s long-term viability and whether the airline is capable of withstanding likely challenges in the air transport market.
For nearly a decade the airline has lurched from crisis to crisis, propped up by tax-payers’ money and a ragtag collection of money saving ideas.
Over the past year alone we’ve read reports about discussions with possible investors including Aeroflot, Transaero Airlines, Middle East Airlines Qatar, Triple Five and Beijing Yi Xiang Da Investment Company….all of which amounted to zilch.
Cyprus Airways is dying a slow, painful death – and we’re all caught in the fallout.
The bottom line is that even with Cyprus Airways out of the equation, customers today in Cyprus have better opportunities than ever of flying where they want, whenever they want and at a price they can afford.
I honestly hope things work out for Cyprus Airways, but right now I’m in no need of a trip to Bahrain, Beirut or Zurich or an overpriced ticket to London.