By Jean Christou
The loss of prestige Cyprus Airways (CY) will incur from the sale of its last remaining Heathrow slot, and its move to Stansted could have unforeseen repercussions on the airline’s image and ultimately its prospects, industry experts warn.
Earlier in the week the cash-strapped national carrier announced the $31 million deal with American Airlines, offloading its third and last slot at London’s flagship airport to which it has been flying for decades. The move marks the end of an era in the airline’s history.
Facing EU scrutiny later this year on its viability, no one doubts that the cash boost will be a boon.
However, a move to the less prestigious Stansted could have other repercussions, according to observers in the industry.
“It means Cyprus Airways has really relinquished its position as Cyprus’ flag carrier,” said Noel Josephides, the Managing Director of the London-based Sunvil Travel.
Sunvil had been working with CY from 1970 up until two years ago when it became easier for tour operators to work with airlines like easyJet and Monarch when they began flights to Cyprus. “Cyprus Airways has downgraded itself to flying from Stansted, which is a low-cost airport and now it will have to compete with the likes of Ryanair. Stansted is fine,” Jospehides said. “It just doesn’t have the same status. It’s as simple as that,” he added.
“Once you leave Heathrow you don’t have the same image and the clientele is very different.”
According to Orestis Rossides, the Cyprus Tourism Organisaton’s man in London who has been there for decades CY always had a good reputation in the UK. “All international airline use Heathrow,” he said.
“It was prestigious for Cyprus to be there. It was good for their reputation, and it was close to where most Cypriots in the UK live.
Although he agreed with the strategy that the cost of using Heathrow was very high, CY, he said, might pay the cost of the switch to Stansted in the form of a change in the kind of passenger it will carry.
“Heathrow would be the first choice for those flying from London. You could say it caters for the most discerning traveler so I think the type of passenger using Cyprus Airways will change and it will lose the loyalty factor,” said Rossides.