The aviation expert said the airline will focus on the Greek market and that their long-haul plan is to “most probably” have scheduled direct flights from Larnaca to the US by summer 2017.
“What we are looking at is possibly charter operations during May but scheduled operations starting in June and I’m really not going to say where we will be flying because that would be signaling to the entire airline community exactly where we are going to be,” Pyne said.
“The Cobalt project is now very well advanced, we should get our operating licence by mid-April and that means our first aircraft will be in Cyprus in literally a few days’ time, aircraft number one,” he added.
The low-cost plus carrier’s philosophy is value for money but with a lot of surprises “because we want to treat our people as customers not as cattle”.
And they will concentrate on the Greek market and not necessarily one of purely flying from Cyprus to Greece. “We have said previously we are interested in operating domestic services in Greece, we don’t see that as weakening our commitment to Cyprus.”
Long term plans for Cobalt is safe expansion, but not before they make sure they have the maturity of systems and personnel before they go onto long-haul operations.
The long-haul plan which is going to include the US, China and hopefully India will roll out in the summer of 2017 but Pyne refused to be specific on which cities they are going to fly out to.
“We will be using the A330 equipment, we start withA320 aircraft, we are looking at five, six aircraft for the summer, we are leasing for the time being and we are looking at potentially purchasing aircraft as from next year.”
Cobalt are looking at Airbus 330 for long-haul markets since the primary purpose is to fly to China and the US to India and to South Africa – another destination they are interested at.
“It (Cobalt project) is a huge investment…this is a combination of Chinese and Cypriot capital, it’s clearly a very big vote of confidence by China in the economy of Cyprus.”
Pyne made clear that Cyprus’ great strategic location provides huge opportunities to develop it as a hub – not just as an end to end destination.
But he believes the airport tax structure in Cyprus is very high and feels that they need to operate on a level playing field with the likes of Ryan air and Aegean which “have been given fantastic deals in terms of support to launch services”.
Who is Andrew Pyne?
He was born in London but spent most of his life away around the world working in the aviation and travel sectors.
He spent 25 years in Hong Kong and Macau before moving to Russia for seven years and then a year in Vietnam before coming to Cyprus in January last year.
He has held senior positions in British Airways, Cathay Pacific and Vietjet, founded a long haul low cost carrier in 2004, Viva Macau, and then set up Russia’s first Low Cost Airline, Avianova.
Andrew who holds an MBA from Henley Business School has done some consultancy work for Cyprus Airways – the island’s defunct national carrier – back in 2011-2012.
“So I had some insights into Cyprus Airways and its structure… the immediate opportunity was to restructure Cyprus Airways but very rapidly the agenda shifted to setting up a new national airline for Cyprus and so the last year or so we are pursuing that agenda,” he said.