THE transport ministry said on Thursday it has no authority to intervene in the market or fix prices, as complaints mounted over rising air fares for popular destinations, particularly Greece where one fare cited for July was as high as €690.
Earlier in the day, Disy leader Averof Neophytou called on the government’s competition watchdog to look into whether high air fares were due to price-fixing.
In a statement, late Thursday, the ministry said despite the fact it could not intervene, it was however taking steps to encourage airlines to increase the number of flights on offer, which would drive prices down.
In a meeting with industry stakeholders in April, it said, a number of steps were decided including: implementing an ‘open skies’ policy for European destinations; striking bilateral inter-governmental agreements with non-EU countries; and encouraging airlines to increase their flights for current itineraries.
Regarding allegations of a cartel in the air travel business, the ministry washed its hands, saying these matters were not under its remit.
Disy’s Neophytou on Thursday called on the government’s competition watchdog to look into whether high air fares were due to price-fixing.
Businesses and the public have been complaining for some time about the cost of tickets, especially to Greece. A glance at fares this week among several airlines on flights from Larnaca to Athens for June showed them all to be within a narrow range of €200 but worse fares were cited for July and August.
“It is unacceptable that a ticket to Athens is more expensive than a ticket to New York,” Neophytou said, adding that the state has the necessary mechanisms to act on the matter.
Neophytou noted that the issue primarily concerned Larnaca airport, but the same applied for the Paphos airport.
He was echoing earlier remarks by Christodoulos Angastiniotis, chairman of the Chamber of Commerce and Industry (Keve), who spoke of a possible cartel among the few remaining airlines operating out of Cyprus.
The issue surfaced on Wednesday, when Keve and the Cyprus-Greece Business Association attributed skyrocketing air fares to the void left by the demise of low-cost Cypriot airline Cobalt.
At a joint news conference, they presented a table of airfares offered by the three airlines – Aegean, Blue Air, Cyprus Airways – showing a similar price range.
Return trips to Athens in July ranged from €247 to €690. Cyprus Airways’ cheapest ticket for the period July 13-21 was €247.
Aegean’s lowest airfares started at €272 (between 26 July and August 1), while Blue Air’s cheapest tickets began from €256 (between July 12-15).
On the high end, for the month of July, Aegean offered €454, Cyprus Airways €532, and Blue Air €690.
Tickets for Thessaloniki (also July) went from €284 to €387.
Bucking the trend, the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents said travel agents were keeping air fares to Greece as low as possible.
In a statement, it urged punters to shop around for destinations in Greece, adding that “they will find direct flights at quite attractive prices.”
The association advised prospective Cypriot travelers to book their flights early, as last-minute reservations tend to be far more expensive.
It said package deals including travel and stay in Greece can be found for as low as €459.
However a number of Cypriots, whose main destination each year is Greece, told a Cybc straw poll on Thursday night that they had decided not to travel in summer due to the high air fares, and bemoaned the loss of Cobalt.