Despite joining the EU in May 2004 Cyprus has not seen the same level of air traffic development as other countries that joined at the same time. Traffic at the two commercial airports of Larnaca (LCA) and Paphos (PFO) grew by a combined 3.9% last year and passed seven million for the first, but passenger numbers were at similar levels as long ago as 2001. Larnaca’s 7.2% growth in 2007 was offset by a 4.7% fall in traffic at Paphos.
|Source: Hermes Airports|
|easyJet’s first services to Cyprus represent a return to his roots for Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou – both his mother and father are from Cyprus. (He gets his British citizenship – and the right to call himself “Sir” – from the fact that his father kept his after independence.)|
On 12 May 2006 Hermes Airports Ltd assumed management control of Larnaca International Airport and Paphos International Airport under a 25 year BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) concession agreement with the Republic of Cyprus. Hermes is a Cypriot company which consists of nine shareholders including Aer Rianta International, Nice Airport and Vancouver Airport, though the biggest shareholders are a couple of French infrastructure and construction companies.
Extreme seasonality a major issue
Although Cyprus has a population of just 800,000 people it is primarily a receiver of air travel rather than a generator. This is reflected in the extreme seasonality of demand which is generated by in-bound tourism, traditionally primarily from the UK.
|The new terminal at Paphos is scheduled to open on 11 November 2008. It will enable the airport to handle 2.7 million passengers per year.|
|Source: Hermes Airports|
Both airports have a monthly peak to off-peak ratio of around 3.8 with August the busiest month for both airports. Traffic at Larnaca has got off to a strong start in 2008 though traffic levels at Paphos are still below 2006 levels, though up on 2007.
Greece and UK are major country markets
Given the country’s chequered history it comes as no surprise that the leading routes from Larnaca are destinations in Greece and the UK.
|Source: Hermes Airports|
Big growth areas for Cyprus are flights from Russia, new EU member states such as Bulgaria and Romania, and Scandinavia. The majority of Russian traffic is operated on a charter basis due to the nature of the existing bilateral.
Traffic at Paphos airport is dominated by UK charter/scheduled airlines with Thomsonfly the leader followed by GB Airways and First Choice. In 2007 the top nine destinations from Paphos were all to UK airports (led by Gatwick and Manchester), the highest-ranked non-UK destination being Brussels.
Cyprus Airways leads ‘local’ dominance at LCA
Last year Cyprus Airways (operating a fleet of 11 Airbus aircraft) was the leading carrier at Larnaca airport with just over 1.6 million passengers, representing 31% of all traffic. According to AEA data Cyprus Airways grew its traffic 6% in 2007 while load factors climbed two points to 72%. The airport also reported a modest profit last year. When combined with traffic carried by Eurocypria (which started life as the charter arm of Cyprus Airlines), Olympic and Aegean, ‘local’ airlines represented half of all traffic at LCA. XL Airways, British Airways and First Choice were the next biggest carriers in terms of passenger volumes.
easyJet arrives in Cyprus
There has been plenty of airline interest in starting new routes in the recent past. Last summer Cyprus Airways began serving Bucharest Otopeni three times weekly while Blue Air began serving Larnaca from Bucharest Baneasa at the start of this summer’s schedule. Last summer also saw the start of service to Vienna with SkyEurope and to Kuwait with Jazeera Airways.
Monarch has added new connections from both London Gatwick and Manchester to complement its existing London Luton service. Lufthansa is adding a new regular seasonal service from Munich (thrice weekly) while Air One will operate a new twice-weekly service from Rome FCO during the peak season.
|jet2.com begins a twice weekly service from Leeds/Bradford to Paphos this weekend (4 May). It is among eight new routes recently announced – most of which launch in May. Cheerleaders from the Leeds Rhinos rugby club were on hand to celebrate the new routes. jet2.com has entered into a major sponsorship agreement with Leeds Carnegie and Leeds Rhinos – the city’s two major rugby clubs.|
easyJet has taken over GB Airways’ routes from London Gatwick and Manchester to Paphos so British Airways has responded by announcing its own daily service from Gatwick starting on 1 July. Other new UK connections include a weekly service from Edinburgh operated by FlyGlobespan and a new twice weekly service from Leeds/Bradford, that begins this weekend (4 May), operated by Jet2.com.
|The new terminal at Larnaca is scheduled to open in 2009.|
Larnaca and Paphos both awaiting new terminals
Both Larnaca and Paphos will open new airport terminals in the next 18 months. The new terminal at Paphos is scheduled to open on 11 November 2008 while the new terminal at Larnaca is expected to open exactly one year later.