Cyprus hopes to buffer impact from banning Russian flights

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The ministries of Transport and Tourism are striving to offset the impact of excluding air traffic from Russia.

Cyprus, along with the other 26 EU member states, closed its airspace to Russian aircraft following the crisis in Ukraine.

Transport Minister Yiannis Karousos told CNA Nicosia hoped it could minimise the financial impact on Cyprus.

Karousos said Cyprus estimated air traffic to and from Russia in the region of 1.3 million passengers this year, amounting to around 15% of the island’s total volume.

Russia has been traditionally Cyprus’ second largest tourist market after the UK, with around a 19% share.

“We believe that this (air traffic) will be lost if the situation continues,” Karousos said.

Since the Covid pandemic broke out, he said the government has been working to improve the island’s air connectivity.

“This is yielding results, and in 2021 we had more destinations compared with 2019.”

Statistics show that Cyprus had one of the lowest reductions in air connectivity during the pandemic.

“The aim is to offset the impact we will have from the Russian and the Ukrainian market with other destinations.”

He said there was interest from other air carriers.

“We are in contact with airlines to provide more options and other destinations, and we are doing everything possible to offset any impact by this decision.”

Karousos said there will be significant announcements concerning air connectivity in the coming days without elaborating.

According to airports operator Hermes, Cyprus expected 20 flights per week in March between Russia, corresponding to roughly 6% to 6.5% of total air traffic, rising to 12% of total flights in April.

There is also a large Russian expat community on the island that relies on flights in and out of Russia.