Cyprus Mail

Ticket sales on hold as Cobalt awaits vital licence

IT HAS EMERGED that Cobalt Air does not have permission to issue tickets to the public and now faces delays in launching.

Would-be passengers have been checking the airline’s website for weeks seeking details of routes and ticket prices, but are greeted with a ‘coming soon’ holding page.

Despite having been issued an Air Operator Certificate (AOC), a commercial licence has not yet been granted – as several issues remain unresolved.

A commercial license from the Air Transport Licensing Authority will give Cobalt permission to launch operations to the public – and more importantly sell tickets.

But, according to Phileleftheros a lack of satisfactory vetting of the airline’s foreign shareholders is responsible for the hold up – in conflict with strict EU criteria.

“We would expect to receive that (commercial licence) shortly,” Cobalt CEO Andrew Pyne told the Cyprus Mail on Tuesday night.

“It is very clear from our point of view, we are a Cyprus owned and controlled airline and we are fully compliant with the rules of the European Union. We don’t see any doubt, or room for doubt on that. I remain confident we will get the licence very soon.”

The airline is owned and controlled by Cypriot nationals, but has a significant Chinese investment component.

Pyne put the delays down to “bureaucratic process” saying that operating procedures can be lengthy and complex. He also expressed confidence that company would be selling tickets from next week.

“Having been a regulator myself in a previous existence, I understand sometimes bureaucracy moves quite slowly. I don’t see any significant reasons for the delay, it is just a matter of completing process,” he added.

It is understood that the Legal Services department are holding fluid dialogue with Cobalt regarding their financial portfolio – including a breakdown of shareholders.

Cobalt must also demonstrate it has access to solid financial support beyond its own capital, which is a prerequisite to getting the final approval for its flight programme.

The company – which is based near Larnaca Airport – already has over 100 staff on the payroll and has publicly stated that flights to the UK, Ireland and Greece will begin within the next 30 days.

The company is looking to link Cyprus with destinations where connectivity has been reduced or is non-existent – in addition to linking the ‘untapped areas’ in the Middle East and North Africa through Larnaca into Europe.

On Tuesday Cobalt inaugurated its first aircraft at Larnaca airport, which it said marked “the renaissance of the Cypriot aviation industry”.

When it launches will become the second new airline to take off this year.

TUS Airways, which is also based at Larnaca, is already running regular flights to destinations in Greece and Israel.

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