By George Psyllides and Andria Kades
THREE airline companies have applied for operating licences in Cyprus, the transport minister said on Thursday, expressing hope that they would employ local staff.
Speaking in parliament, Marios Demetriades, said the Civil Aviation Department was considering applications for air operator certificates from Cobalt Air, Tous Air and Orion.
The companies operate on a low-cost model, the minister said.
The application is divided into two stages. First, technical criteria are assessed and if successful, a committee then scrutinises the request assessing financial viability to grant a commercial licence.
Demetriades said the hope was that they would hire locals.
“We certainly can’t include a provision to employ local staff, but you realise that a company coming to Cyprus would,” he said.
The minister said that after the closure of the island’s national carrier, Cyprus Airways, there was experienced personnel available that could be hired by these airlines.
Asked if these companies would take over routes that were operated by Cyprus Airways, the minister said it was a free market with over 40 airlines operating in Cyprus.
“There is a lot of competition on all routes,” he said.
He added that the ministry was proceeding swiftly with the implementation of the “open skies” policy, which would boost the country’s connectivity.
In early March, a package of six incentives to entice more airlines to Cyprus was signed between airports’ operator Hermes and the Ministry of communications.
The three year agreement for both Larnaca and Paphos airports includes developing new (single) routes, development of winter traffic, discounts on landing fees at Cypriot airports, development through a growth bonus plan on a net traffic growth for existing routes, and marketing support for the promotion of Cyprus by the airlines.
Meanwhile, the government plans to subsidise airlines that intend to operate flights to Brussels once the route is officially announced as a non-profit line, Demetriades said.
“We are aiming for two flights a week in winter and summer,” he said as opposed to previous attempts to have three weekly flights in winter and four during the summer.
In March, Demetriades said flights to Brussels were not financially viable for airlines so the route became a Public Service Obligation where €500,000 in grants were available since the end of 2014.
This did not seem to gear enough interest. However, ministry spokesperson Demetris Constandinou told the Cyprus Mail “we are positive that this time, it will be successful.”
Demetriades stipulated that the state “will cover all the expenses of the airline company” as EU rules outlined. There are approximately 70,000 people that travel to Brussels per year.