* Ryanair plans to boost Cyprus passenger traffic to 2-3 mln *
The outspoken chief executive of Europe’s budget giant said Ryanair can step in to take over the gap left behind if troubled Cyprus Airways closes, but suggested it would be better if the island’s national carrier kept on flying.
Michael O’Leary told a press briefing in Nicosia to launch its new flights to eight European destinations that Ryanair will deliver over 550,000 customers to Cyprus, even though airport fees in Larnaca and Paphos are much higher than others, even double the tariff of Berlin airport.
He said that these high costs have also played a role in Cyprus Airways beign in trouble which has seen its traffic reduced from 1.2 mln passenger seats to just 700,000 this year.
“We will probably express interest in Cyprus [after the government invited bids] but we would rather tell the Cyprus government that we can fill any possible vacuum that may be created, as long as airport fees come down,” O’Leary said.
He explained that passenger traffic at both airports was flat at just above 7.2 mln recorded in 2008 and disputed the excuse of the economic crisis as a reason for a drop on traffic, even though he admitted that the numbers were down in Larnaca but up in Paphos, due mainly to the increase from Ryanair.
“Our plans are to increase Cyprus’ capacity to 2-3 mln,” he said, adding that there are several new features and improvements on board all aircraft, with the fleet being boosted by an additional 180 aircraft starting to be delivered in two months’ time.
O’Leary said that September is also significant as the new business model will be in full swing, including fast track boarding, reserved seating in the front, flexibility on ticketing and re-issuing.
With the average ticket cost out of Cyprus at around 50 euros, the Ryanair boss said he has set his sights on expanding eastwards into the Middle East where there is growing demand for the airline.
As of this week, Ryanair operates eight routes out of its Paphos hub, including one new daily route to and from Athens, as the airline grows by 9% in Cyprus this year.
The other routes out of Paphos Brussels, Chania, Kaunas, London, Manchester, Rome and Thessaloniki.
Since its first flight in April 2012, Ryanair has carried over 1 mln customers to and from Paphos and the airline celebrated this milestone, as well as the launch of its Paphos winter schedule by releasing 100,000 seats for sale across its European network, at prices from 19.99 euros for travel in September, October and November. These low fare seats are available for booking at http://www.ryanair.com/ until midnight Thursday (July 24).
In Cyprus for the first time, Michael O’Leary said “Cypriot consumers and visitors already choose Ryanair for our low fares, industry leading customer service and great route choice.”
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