Christmas travel prices nightmare > Part II

Back to the monopoly days? The problem of ticket pricing and a dearth of choice in flying out of Cyprus is well known to industry bosses.

Akis Kelepeshis, the chairman of ACTA said airlines had as much as seven classes of tickets on each flight. “That’s why the prices are always varying,” he said. “But the really cheap tickets that they advertise only comprise five or six seats on each flight.” Kelepeshis also said the practice of advertising ticket prices without the taxes should also be stopped considering that extra charges can go up to £60, which he said was misleading for consumers.

The ‘extras’ on tickets usually comprise airport taxes and fuel and insurance surcharges, and since last July a flat travel tax of between £10 and £20 depending on destination, was introduced.

“All this is misleading because you end up paying £300 for a ticket,” said Kelepeshis, adding that even though fuel prices have dropped, the airline surcharges were still in place. “What we want is all the charges to be included in all the fares advertised,” he said. “They should advertise the full fare because the consumer wants to know what he is buying,”

He agreed that the withdrawal of ajet had left a vacuum in the market in which consumers were the ultimate losers. “Certainly prices are going up for people who want to travel out of Cyprus, and for those coming in,” said Kelepeshis. “Can you believe it’s £170 to fly to Athens during the day over the Christmas period?. It’s too much.”

Kelepeshis said ajet had around eight flights a week and was bringing in around 70,000 people a year. “We do have a problem now and we have asked Cyprus Airways and
Eurocypria to put on some extra flights.” He said CY did say it would try to operate an extra flight to Manchester, especially over the Christmas period.

But in general he said it was difficult to attract other low-cost carriers to Cyprus due to the distance. Low-cost airlines usually operate within a three-hour time frame and Cyprus is some four and a half hours flying time from Britain.

However the Cyprus Tourism Organisation (CTO) has been talking to British-based easyjet, and another low-cost carrier in the UK, Acting Director Lefkos Phylactides said. Just back from the World Travel Market in London, Phylactides said although Cyprus was at a technical disadvantage from the word go in terms of distance, the talks with easyjet and the second no-frills carrier, which he declined to name, would continue.

He said the CTO was now in partnership with new airport operators Hermes to push the issue. “They have a vested interest in attracting more airlines to Cyprus,” said Phylactides. “There is a problem that has been accentuated by the withdrawal of ajet and we have talked with Cyprus Airways and Eurocypria, and sent a letter to both managers and to the government urging them to look into whether there are destinations that were covered by ajet if they can fill the gaps,” Phylactides added.

CY General Manager Christos Kyriakides said the airline would be adding a number of extra flights for Christmas, as it does annually. He also said CY was beginning weekly flights to Sofia to fill the gap left there by ajet. “We will also be filling the gaps at Christmas,” he said. Asked why CY tickets were generally around £100 more than ajet was charging, Kyriakides said: “Maybe that was part of the problem they ultimately faced…if you sell below cost.” “We are selling at prices we consider reasonable. I don’t think our pricing policy has changed since last year,” he added.

Defending the varied pricing system within the same flight for essentially the same seats, Kyriakides said the airline sold some seats at a lower price in order to maximize the revenue on flights. He also said much of extra Christmas flights were not necessarily profitable for the airline.

“The main reason we operate extra flights for Christmas is to facilitate Cypriot students abroad. There are a lot in Greek universities and to a lesser extent in the UK, despite the fact that this is not so profitable for us because you have the empty legs to consider. The chances are that those flights will be virtually empty.”British Airways said it does not put on any extra flights out of Cyprus at Christmas. “We never do,” a spokesman said.

December 20-27 > London > Athens > Salonica
Cyprus Airways £242 £98 £134, British Airways £274, Aegean Airlines £172 £152, Olympic Airways £116 £162