By Angelos Anastasiou
Nine in ten Cypriots consider Cyprus Airways a safe airline and the existence of a national carrier a necessity, a survey commissioned by Cyprus Airways pilots’ union PASYPI has found.
In a news conference on Wednesday held jointly by the airline’s employee unions, PASYPI’s leader Petros Souppouris presented the survey’s findings and offered his interpretation them.
The survey, conducted from November 24 to 26 via telephone interviews of 1,000 random individuals, found that 87 per cent of respondents considered Cyprus Airways a safe airline.
“Even global airlines can’t boast such numbers,” Souppouris said.
Slightly fewer respondents – 85 per cent – thought the company should continue to operate after being taken over by the “right” strategic investor.
“And we were careful on this point,” Souppouris explained. “Because there is a right way to attract a strategic investor, and the government’s way isn’t it.”
He was referring to July’s public invitation of interest in acquiring either Cyprus Airways or its assets by the Cyprus government, which has produced poor results and all but broken down.
“The government’s effort resembles an attempt to sell a flat,” Souppouris said. “We’re not trying to sell a flat. You don’t place an ad saying you want to sell an airline – you can approach large companies after you have set up a committee of experts to handle the negotiations.”
Statistical trends in the analysis of the high numbers in favour of saving Cyprus Airways revealed that respondents over 45 years of age offered more positive views than younger people, as did women compared to men.
With regard to the possible impact of closing down the company on ticket prices, responses were mixed, with 32 per cent believing prices would go up, 31 per cent thinking they would remain the same, and 22 per cent believing they would fall.
Again, a higher percentage of women and respondents over 45 than other strata thought ticket prices would rise if Cyprus Airways were to cease operations.
A clearer picture was painted when respondents were asked of their degree of approval of the government’s handling of the issue of Cyprus Airways.
More than half – 53 per cent – thought the government botched it, while only 28 per cent approved of its choices.
The government and Cyprus Airways are expecting the European Competition Commission’s ruling on whether some €80 million the airline has received over the last seven years from the government constitute state aid, in breach of European competition law. If so, the company will be required to return the money, resulting in its immediate bankruptcy.
Asked to name the culprits of Cyprus Airways’ predicament, 42 per cent of the survey’s respondents said the government was to blame the most, 37 per cent thought the company’s board bears the lion’s share of the responsibility, and 34 per cent placed the blame on the company’s managerial staff.
Employee unions and the parliament followed, with 11 per cent each.
Asked whether almost 90 per cent of the public would respond positively to the question of whether Cyprus Airways should be kept going if it meant more taxpayer money, Souppouris said no, but defended his union’s positions.
“Of course the figures would be lower – people clearly want a ‘national’ carrier, not necessarily a ‘state’ carrier,” he said. “But that’s also what we want. We have said time and again that we want the restructuring plan implemented in full, and that a strategic investor needs to be attracted.”
The plan to restructure Cyprus Airways, with a view to restoring profitability, has only been partly implemented – board chairman Marinos Kallis told the House on Tuesday that full implementation will require shedding almost 200 jobs, the sale of its remaining assets and 12 per cent pay cuts across the board.
By Angelos Anastasiou