By Angelos Anastasiou
THE national carrier must remain alive, socialist EDEK leader and House president Yiannakis Omirou said yesterday after a meeting with Cyprus Airways (CY) chairman Tony Antoniou.
The visit to EDEK’s headquarters fell under the company’s decision to inform all political parties of the company’s current situation.
“EDEK traditionally supports the need of a Cypriot carrier and will make every effort to support Cyprus Airways’ return to viability,” Omirou said, adding that the government needs to clarify whether it is actively seeking a strategic investor to help save the troubled airline.
“It’s going to take tremendous effort to save Cyprus Airways, and finding a strategic investor is going to be critical – otherwise we will have a slow death in our hands,” he said.
But Omirou was less supportive when it came to the controversy surrounding the company’s sole remaining Heathrow slot being sold to American Airlines.
“Though we heard some explanations, the party is still concerned about this issue,” Omirou said. “A policy of liquidating the company’s assets may weaken the prospect of strategic investors or other funds being interested.”
Antoniou agreed with Omirou’s call for the airline to remain in operation, and defended the decision to sell the Heathrow slot.
“Over the past year we have applied the strategic plan submitted to the European Commission, which we will be called to document to the Commission soon,” he said. “The conversion of assets, like time slots, to cash will strengthen the company’s viability and should be appreciated by the Commission.”
He and the board, Antoniou said, have been mandated by President Anastasiades to keep the carrier alive, and will continue to work towards this goal under very difficult circumstances.
Denying charges of trying to wind it down quietly, Antoniou said that the company’s viability has been secured for most of 2015 through the sale of the Heathrow time slot.
“This proves that employees will continue will be employed and the flight schedule will continue,” he said.
Commenting on Omirou’s reference to possible prosecutions with regard to misappropriating public funds by previous administrations, Antoniou said that over the past year the company has neither asked, nor received “a single euro” from the state and the Cypriot taxpayer.
“The company has raised the issue of mismanagement or possible misappropriation as a priority and the Finance Minister has been forwarded a number of cases to look into,” Antoniou said. “If asked for further information, we will resume investigations.”