Cyprus Airways could cut as much as 25 percent of the jobs at Olympic Airways if it gets the nod to acquire a controlling share in the ailing Greek carrier, chairman Haris Loizides said Tuesday, June 12.
"Our proposal is that we keep 30 aircraft, abolish loss-making routes, and we are going to keep 75 to 80 percent of the staff," Loizides told a gathering of brokers and reporters in Nicosia.
It was the first time the airline disclosed details of its bid to secure a 51 percent stake in state-run Olympic as part of a consortium.
Loizides was cautious not to criticize Olympic staff, who are against privatization, but blamed what he said were years of disorganization and shoddy management for the company's demise. "Under every stone you turn over there is mismanagement underneath, from fuel supply to ticketing," said Loizides.
The chairman said that overpaid staff was not the issue but low productivity and performance levels. The Greek carrier employs around 6,700 permanent personnel compared with 2,000 staff at Cyprus Airways.
"The staff is not to blame for what happened at Olympic Airways. They have had 11 managements in 10 years," said Loizides.
Moreover, a precondition of the Cyprus Airways proposal is that if there is no agreement first with Olympic staff, the buy-out will not proceed. Loizides made clear the company was not interested in the catering arm or the heavy maintenance one.
Although loss-making routes such as Australia would be axed, Cyprus Airways would keep the internal routes and the charter airline. It would increase daily flights to the rest of Europe from Greece and bolster flights to the Middle East and the United States from Cyprus.
"Olympic Airways has been operating using social and national criteria; it needs to use commercial and economic criteria," said Loizides.
The Greek government has asked for additional clarification, which will be sent by June 18. A week later the winning candidate is expected to be announced. Negotiations could take up to four months once the candidate is selected.
Members of the consortium, of which Cyprus Airways has a 30 percent stake, are being kept confidential. Last month, the Cypriot carrier put in a conditional bid for Olympic, saying it depended on the type of guarantees and incentives the Athens government had to offer.
It is one of three bidders still in the race for the sell-off. The rivals are small private Greek carrier Axon Airlines and Greece's Restis shipping group. Olympic is viewed as a risky venture ― highlighted by the lack of bidders ― having run up huge losses over the past 15 years. ― (AFP, Nicosia)
by Charlie Charalambous
© Agence France Presse 2001
© 2001 Mena Report (www.menareport.com)