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UK airport chaos domino effect in Cyprus

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UK airports gridlock is taking its toll on Cyprus tourism as passengers flying to and from the island have either suffered long-hour delays or had their flights cancelled.

A shortage of ground staff at UK airports has meant that many flights leave the country with long delays, or flights are scrapped from the airline schedule.

According to Hermes Airports, Larnaca airport saw 223 flights or 12% of traffic from the UK in May arrive with significant delays.

The late arrival of flights subsequently caused delays in departures using the same aircraft.

It was worse for Paphos airport, where 264, or 26% of UK flights, landed with significant delays, while 294 departures were affected.

Larnaca airport was informed by airlines that 24 flights scheduled to arrive, and consequently, another 24 departures had been cancelled.

Paphos airport saw 20 arrivals and 21 departure flights called off last month.

Airlines including easyJet, TUI, WizzAir, Jet2 and British Airways have been cancelling hundreds of flights as the industry struggles to cope with staff shortages and a surge in demand.

Heathrow chief John Holland-Kaye said this week that airlines and airports needed to “plan much better” to avoid further cancellations and delays this summer.

He added: “I think it will take 12 to 18 months for the aviation sector to fully recover capacity.”

Charis Papacharalambous, the Association of Cyprus Travel Agents (ACTA) spokesperson, told the Financial Mirror that long delays and flight cancellations have not yet cost the tourism sector, as UK tourists are still coming.

He argued that delays at UK airports could cause more problems down the road as some flights are being cancelled, with holidaymakers pushed on to other flights.

This forces agents and hoteliers in Cyprus to scramble to reschedule holiday packages.

“This is creating a domino effect…it could mean that some tourists will get discouraged and either cancel their booking or avoid planning to go abroad for their summer holidays.

“We hoped that Cyprus tourism would be getting a UK boost following the war in Ukraine.”

Following the war in Ukraine, Cyprus looked to increase flows from the UK, traditionally its strongest market, Israel, and emerging players such as France, to make up for a loss of 800,000 tourists from Russia and Ukraine.

Pre-COVID, over 53% of Cyprus’ 4 mln tourists in 2019 came from the UK (33.5%) and Russia (19.7%).

Cyprus had three successive boom years before the pandemic, with British arrivals peaking at 1.4 mln.

COVID-19 battered tourism began its recovery in 2021, but arrivals of holidaymakers were still 50% below the pre-pandemic record of four million.

Passenger traffic at Larnaca and Paphos in May recorded a 22% decrease compared to 2019, which was a record year for the island.

A total of 885,000 passengers went through the two airports last month – 634,000 more than the corresponding period last year.

Some 2.5 million passengers walked through Cyprus airport gates in the first five months of the year.