ECONOMY

Enter the flying Cypriots

NICOSIA – Cyprus Airways will concentrate on plans to expand into Greece after a review of the market, which is due to be completed by the end of this month, its chairman said yesterday. The Cypriot carrier sees opportunities to tap into the Greek market, while the country’s ailing state carrier, Olympic Airways, is in the throes of a long, drawn-out government sell-off and after one of its private airlines, Axon, suspended operations at the end of November. «We are contemplating serving the international market out of Athens and possibly teaming up in a commercial alliance with another carrier for the domestic market,» Chairman Haris Loizides told Reuters. «We feel that it wouldn’t be a huge investment program.» Only one private carrier, Aegean Cronus, now serves the Greek market, after Axon’s suspension and a merger between Greece’s two local private airlines. But a final decision by state-controlled Cyprus Airways could take some more weeks, as it reviews the situation in Greece and comes up with a definitive game-plan, Loizides said. «We are in the process of reviewing the matter. Our intention would be to fully utilize the knowledge we have of the Greek market, especially as we participated actively in the privatization (procedure) of Olympic,» he said. Cyprus Airways put in a bid for Olympic last year and came second after frontrunner Axon in an assessment by the Greek government’s privatization advisers, Credit Suisse First Boston. The Cypriot airline pulled out as sources said managers were frustrated at delays in the sell-off process. Negotiations with the preferred bidder collapsed last October, and Axon announced suspension of its operations on November 30, citing an industry downturn and rising losses after the September 11 attacks in the USA. The Greek government is now talking with Australian-based Integrated Airline Solutions, a group controlled by Greek shipping, oil and construction tycoon Pavlos Vardinoyiannis. The deadline for negotiations with the group expired on January 31, but the Greek government yesterday pushed back its decision till February 15. Negotiations with the preferred bidder collapsed last October, and Axon announced suspension of its operations on November 30, citing an industry downturn and rising losses after the September 11 attacks in the USA. The Greek government is now talking with Australian-based Integrated Airline Solutions, a group controlled by Greek shipping, oil and construction tycoon Pavlos Vardinoyiannis. The deadline for negotiations with the group expired on January 31, but the Greek government yesterday pushed back its decision till February 15.