NICOSIA - Greece’s Aegean Airlines wants to schedule flights from Larnaca to Russia, but bilateral treaties between Nicosia and Moscow appear to have put a halt to their plans.
Nonetheless, the carrier has already applied for licence to set up a subsidiary on the island – a move that will allow it to apply for traffic rights to Russia.
“Authorities have refused permission to Aegean to fly to Russian destinations from Larnaca where two of its aircraft are permanently based. It’s unfortunate, the carrier now flies only to Kiev from Larnaca,” a source told The Cyprus Weekly.
“But Aegean has applied for licence to set up a subsidiary in Cyprus and that will allow for flights from Larnaca to many more Russian destinations, not necessarily Moscow. Russia is a very profitable destination, the airline flies to nine different towns from Athens,” added the insider.
Russian flights are believed to be profitable for the Greek carrier even if —as a Cyprus company banned from flying over Turkish airspace – it needs to pay more for fuel to cover a longer route.
Turkey, which still occupies territory of EU member Cyprus, refuses to recognise the island-state.
“Costs will not be that much higher. Aegean has a local crew in Cyprus, it has a base. Local authorities have to understand that more Russian flights means more tourism to Cyprus,” said the insider.
Reports had financially-struggling Cyprus Airways acting behind the scenes to pre-empt Aegean being granted permission for flights to Russia and neighbouring Tel Aviv.
The national carrier enjoys almost a monopoly on these two non-EU destinations as they are subject to bilateral agreements under which traffic rights are assigned only to designated carriers.
But Nicosia strongly dismissed these allegations saying Cyprus looks forward to an open-skies policy that will fully liberalise flights within Europe.
And that it was Moscow that wanted a more protective regime, safeguarded in state bilateral treaties.
“The more flights the better for Cyprus, especially now that the island’s economy is struggling,” said a government official.
Meanwhile, Aegean’s bid to buy Olympic Air is still under review by the European Commission with informed sources saying the licence will most probably be granted.
Phase two of the review by the Commission began on April 24 and could last up to 90 working days.
Aegean suffered a blow in March when it had to end its Larnaca flights to London’s Heathrow Airport it was unable to renew use of landing slots.
They had been renting those slots for about two years and when the contract ended at the end of the winter season, the Athens-based carrier wanted to renew it but was declined.
The airline then tried to offer direct flights from Larnaca to Gatwick but the airport does not offer connecting flights on other Star Alliance routes. This is the global airline network to which Aegean is affiliated.
Star Alliance has 27 airline members and offers connectivity and convenience for international passengers.
Passengers wanting to travel from Larnaca to England on Aegean need to do so via Athens.