THE NEWS that Cyprus Airways would be selling its last remaining time-slot at London’s Heathrow Airport sparked the predictable, emotional reaction from opposition parties. There was not a hint of rational thought in the criticism levelled by Akel and the Alliance of Citizens, both of which saw the move as a part of a government attempt to close down the national carrier.
The truth is that the sale of the two remaining Heathrow time-slots (one was sold earlier in the year) was part of the airline board’s restructuring plan. The company is being secretive about its plan, because the publicity given to the planned sale of the time-slot earlier in the year significantly lowered the price. The details of this sale are a carefully guarded secret, with the company giving nothing away.
This is the reason why the chairman of the House Watchdog Committee postponed the meeting that would have discussed the matter put on the agenda by Akel. The party’s deputy parliamentary spokesman, Stavros Evagorou, presented this as a conspiracy by Disy and the airline “to allow the sell-off of the company’s last asset.” He also noted that the company had sold its other assets – another Heathrow time-slot and a building in Nicosia.
Evagorou claimed the government was “calculatingly leading the company to permanent closure,” but Akel would do everything in its power to keep Cyprus Airways afloat “because the airline, despite its perennial problems, offered a lot and could still offer a lot to the economy’s development and tourism.” The Alliance leader, Giorgos Lillikas, said that the government should “give directives to the airline’s board so that any restructuring would have as its aim the survival of the company.”
This is astonishing nonsense. Neither Lillikas nor Evagorou have realised that Cyprus Airways is on the brink of bankruptcy and the only way to keep it afloat is through radical measures, because it is ineligible for more state help, even if the funds were available. A company on the brink of bankruptcy should sell its assets if this would help its survival and not greatly hinder its operation. The sale of the Heathrow time-slots might not be good for the company’s image, but there are other airports close to London it could fly to.
Desperate situations require desperate measures. The airline is more likely to carry on serving economic development and tourism, as Akel wants, if it survives rather than if it keeps all its assets but closes down because it would have run out of cash. Is this too rational for Evagorou and Lillikas to understand? Communications minister Marios Demetriades was absolutely right in asking the critics to propose their solutions for the airline, instead of going on about the time-slots. They had nothing to propose, because there is no alternative to what the board is doing.