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CY privatisation is one-way street, says chairman

The poll wants CY to reduce its fares, but the chairman blames high ticket prices on fees in Cyprus and London aiports

By Constantinos Psillides

THE privatisation of Cyprus Airways is inevitable, board chairman Tony Antoniou said on Wednesday while revealing a favourable public opinion poll, explaining that the national carrier cannot compete without investors coming in.

“Long-term growth without investors is simply not feasible. We are a company, not a government organisation and thus our goal is to maximise profit,” Antoniou said, adding that the airline cannot meet all of Cyprus’s travelling needs. “Our fleet has shrunk to six aeroplanes due to EU cuts. If we are looking for long-term growth then Cyprus Airways has to turn to private investors”, he said.

The CY chairman pointed out that the company is in a better shape now than it was a year ago due to budget cuts and a restructuring plan. “We don’t take a cent from the state. We are fully self-sustained,” he said.

According to the survey conducted from mid-February to early-March by CMR-Cypronetwork Marketing Research, two thirds of those asked say that CA shouldn’t shut down and 56 per cent said that company should be salvaged at all cost. Fifty two per cent said it should stay in Cypriot hands, while 46 per cent said that they wouldn’t mind foreign investors.

“It’s clear that public opinion has turned in our favour, now that we are on a path of restructuring. We are very optimistic for the future. CY was resurrected”, the chairman said, speaking on behalf of the entire board.

Thirty one per cent in the survey had a ‘positive’ impression of Cyprus Airways, 18 per cent were ‘very positive,’ ten per cent said they have a negative impression and a seven per cent were ‘very negative’. Forty two per cent had no opinion.

Most of the favourable support came from Nicosia (70 per cent), while only 15 per cent of Paphos residents had something good to say. “The reason for that is that Cyprus Airways stopped operating from Paphos airport so some resentment is to be expected,” Antoniou explained.

Cyprus Airways is most liked by young people, or 58 per cent of people aged 18 to 24, while the most negative opinion is held by people aged 35-44.

When it comes flight safety, almost 1 in 2 (48 per cent) identify this as the best thing about CY.

“Flight safety is sacred to us. That’s why we spend a lot of money on it, a lot more than people think, and it’s why we recently received an award in an international competition in New York. The cost of safety is high,” Antoniou said.

A further 48 per cent said ticket prices should be cheaper, while only 16 per cent complained about the lack of routes.

“Ticket prices were high in the past but if someone compares ticket prices now will see that CY fares are cheaper, considering the services offered. A comparison will show that Cyprus Airways is cheaper most of the times anyway,” said Antoniou. “We might have 15-16 different fares for seats on the same flight. It depends on a lot of things but mostly the time period the ticket is sold. The earlier people buy their tickets, the cheaper they are,” he said

Antoniou responded to a story in daily “Politis” that a ticket to Heathrow costs €640, blaming it on airport fees. “Heathrow is one of the most expensive airports in the world. Everything is 20-25 per cent more expensive. Cyprus Airways had two time slots but sold one and now our Heathrow route is profitable. CY isn’t the only one flying to London. At least five other companies fly to Heathrow from Cyprus so people are free to choose what they want,” he said.

The CY chairman attacked airport operator Hermes, saying that it favours rival companies so CY has to deal with unfair competition.

A Hermes spokesman was unavailable for comment.

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