By Constantinos Psillides
Travel agency Top Kinisis, which was tasked by the government to handle passengers of the now defunct Cyprus Airways, has asked the finance ministry for more money as it cannot cover the increased cost of some replacement flights.
According to a company official, the travel agency expects a sharp rise in ticket prices over the Easter holidays – Orthodox Easter Sunday is on April 12 – and the budget allocated by the government will not be enough.
“We were given a budget by the state and asked to accommodate all passengers that weren’t interested in a full refund. Where it was possible we would suggest a direct flight or else go with connecting flights,” said the company representative.
“Unfortunately, ticket prices have gone up and the money allocated by the state is not sufficient to cover the cost of the [new] ticket. To that end, we have filed an official request with the finance ministry and are awaiting their answer any day now.”
The state allocated an average €320 per passenger for travel arrangements. For people who had booked with Cyprus Airways well in advance, the figure might have been close to the cost of the fare but the nearer a travel date is, normally the more expensive a ticket becomes, especially at times like Easter.
When announcing the CY shutdown in January, Finance Minister Harris Georgiades pledged that the state would not leave any ticket-holder stranded without offering a valid travel alternative, or a full refund.
The Cyprus Mail was contacted by a family of four saying they had been asked to pay an extra €480 in total to replace a direct CY flight they had booked from the UK.
“Top Kinisis are asking me for an extra €480 for a family of four unless I take indirect flights which my wife is too ill to do so,” said the man, who feels entitled to a direct flight given that was what he had booked and paid for in the first place with CY.
“The government said it would undertake any additional costs for replacing tickets,” he added.
Indeed the government in its announcement at the time said: “It is noted that affected passengers shall not bear any additional costs in relation to the reissuance of their tickets, as such costs will be undertaken by the Republic of Cyprus.”
The Top Kinisis representative said the company had encountered a handful of such cases. “We are aware of these cases and almost all of them have to do with medical problems. We included those cases in our appeal to the finance ministry so we should be able to accommodate the passengers once we get the green light from the ministry,” said the representative.
There could however be many more such cases over the busy summer period as the last ticket purchased for Cyprus Airways was for October 2015.
Complaints stemming from complications due to the Cyprus Airways shutdown also extend to postage. Having lost their biggest distributor, the Cyprus post office is now struggling to operate smoothly.
The Cyprus Mail contacted Cyprus Postal Services director Andreas Gregoriou, who admitted that there is indeed a problem.
“It is true that when it comes to the island’s connectivity, shutting down Cyprus Airways was a blow. Our only means of transporting post is almost exclusively by airplane, which are usually filled with luggage or cargo. Planes transporting post – especially to the UK – go through connecting flights with all the subsequent problems. Bags forgotten, left overnight or even in some instances lost. We are very much aware of this problem and we are doing our best to resolve it,” said Gregoriou.
The airline was shut down in January after the European Commission ruled that a €65 million state aid package violated competition laws. The ailing carrier was asked to give the money back, which led to its bankruptcy.