Cobalt is “90% through the AOC process” and just needs to complete a facilities inspection and proving flight, Pyne said.
Cobalt will operate from Larnaca Airport, using an initial fleet of three leased Airbus A320s, powered by V2500 engines and in a single-class 180-seat layout, “but we’re looking to supplement that with ACMI [aircraft, crew, maintenance and insurance] aircraft,” Pyne said. “Cyprus is a very seasonal market, so ACMI is a very attractive option.”
The aim is initially to operate charters, but then quickly to move into scheduled services and the new airline is already eyeing up the A330 for long-haul services for 2017. Pyne hopes Cobalt will be operating a minimum of two A330s and eight A320s in fairly short order. “Given the Hong Kong link, we’re going to be looking at points in China; we’re also looking at Johannesburg, Tehran and Bangkok.”
“Clearly, the European market is well penetrated by LCCs. However, when you go beyond Cyprus to the east, you enter the world of bilateral agreements, many of which are restricted to Cyprus-controlled airlines. Aegean has presented itself as a Cypriot flag carrier, but it was impossible for Aegean to operate those [bilateral routes] because many of those countries weren’t willing to accept it as a Cypriot carrier.”
Although originating and destination traffic would be core to building the airline, Pyne, said it planned to use the recently modernized Larnaca airport as a hub, offering transit services on routes between Lebanon and France and Israel and the UK, for instance. Asked why passengers between those countries would not simply take existing direct routings, he replied: “Price will be the attraction.”