How did Hermes Airports cope with the collapse of Cyprus Airways in 2015? What’s filled the traffic gap?
Hermes was not caught by surprise, but was rather prepared to deal with this unfortunate event. The situation of the airline was deteriorating for a long period and it became particularly evident the last few months prior to its collapse. In the immediate aftermath of the collapse Hermes worked with the Government and the appointed agency to facilitate the transportation of passengers on other flights in a way that the operation of the airport was not disrupted and passengers were not burdened. Most importantly we implemented a capacity replacement plan and, by April 2015 we had managed to replace 80% of Cyprus Airways flights. Different airlines have introduced additional or new flights on the routes that CY was operating. Aegean and Blue Air established operating bases in Cyprus right after the collapse of the airline, whereas, other airlines such as British Airways, Transavia, Middle East, Lufthansa, Austrian, El-Al and Arkia have increased their capacity to pick up traffic. I am happy to say that a year and a half later, we managed to sustain the capacity introduced and also this winter for the first time we have coverage of routes such as the Amsterdam one for which there was a gap after Cyprus Airways’ closure.
You’ve been very successful building your out of season traffic. How have you achieved this?
The extension of the season beyond the period of April to October has been a strategic goal for us, but also for the tourism industry in Cyprus as well. Our airports are serving primarily the needs of a tourist destination, and as such we have been working very closely with the authorities and the stakeholders to align our initiatives and actions. As the operator of Larnaka and Pafos airports, we pursue active air service development and offer incentive schemes to airlines and tour operators in order to support off peak operations. At the same time, we have been involved in initiatives for the promotion of Cyprus as a year-round destination using mainly digital content marketing. Over the last few years we market the island together with the Cyprus tourism organisation and through a number of developmental plans with airlines that operate on a year round basis, we have managed to increase the capacity during the off peak months. This winter season we would see an increase of 0.5m seats offered between November 2016 and March 2017.
How does it change your perspective as an airport not having a home based carrier?
We have currently five airlines with operating bases in Cyprus; two of them holding a Cypriot AOC and next year we expect the addition of another two locally based airlines. This shows that after the collapse of Cyprus Airways, a momentum was created that attracted other airlines who see operating out of Cyprus as an opportunity to grow or establish their business. The potential is there especially as they have different airline models and can stimulate different market segments, whilst at the same time they recognise the potential of Cyprus to grow as a tourism destination. Moreover, we have 70 airlines operating on the island serving 40 different countries. On the other hand, we need to consider that a home based carrier in its traditional form would serve primarily the needs of a hub airport similar to Dubai, Doha, etc. something that we don’t consider a big possibility for Cyprus in the near future.
Are there any plans for the Hermes Airports brand outside of Cyprus?
Hermes airports is a consortium comprised of nine international and Cypriots shareholders, which was formed specifically for the undertaking of the operation and management of Larnaka and Pafos airports under a concession agreement for 25 years. Every shareholder of course has an international presence in different industries ranging from construction, technology, infrastructure projects and airport operations and management which are expanding over time. Our shareholders draw on the experience of Hermes Airports and its staff in their international ventures however there are no plans for Hermes itself to expand internationally.