Airport expansion leaves scope for growth
MORE than 30 scheduled airlines fly into the Republic of Cyprus, plus numerous charter companies and low-cost carriers, the latest of which is Jet2.com, which starts flying into Paphos from Leeds next season.
Passenger traffic has increased dramatically since Larnaca and Paphos airports were built (in 1975 and 1983 respectively) and has severely challenged the existing facilities, leading the government to enter into an agreement with a private sector entity, Hermes Airports, to help develop two new facilities scheduled to open in 2008/9.
Upgrading of the existing airports has been carried out but the need for larger facilities is still apparent.
Larnaca Airport expanded the arrivals hall in February 2006; two luggage belts were added, bringing the total to six; and a larger lounge and a smoking area were also added. Four tented check-in desks were erected within the bus park – allowing big tour operators with an entire planeload of passengers to be booked in before they even set foot in the terminal.
At present both Larnaca and Paphos airports are heavily overloaded at certain times, standing virtually idle at others. For example, peak departures at Larnaca on a Wednesday this summer reached 1,800 passengers an hour at around 1pm, while from 8am to 9am the terminal saw less than 200 passengers per hour – indicating a need to spread flights out more evenly across a 24 hour period.
In 2006, airport movements were restricted at Larnaca to seven arrivals and departures per hour – increased to eight per hour in each category for this year and next. (Paphos will increase from four to five arrivals or departures per hour in 2008.)
The new Larnaca terminal will be next to a new control tower, with new aprons and jet ways. Most passengers will be able to move directly from terminal-to-plane and vice versa using covered walkways. In Phase 1, there will be 76 check-in desks; eight security screening positions; 16 passenger boarding bridges; eight remote gates; five baggage claim carousels; and 2,200 car spaces. It will be able to handle 7.5 million passengers a year. (The current terminal, originally designed to handle 2.5 million passengers a year, sees about 6 million per year). Phase 2 (expected to start in 2013) will raise its capacity to 9 million, and the runway will extend from 2,700m to 3,500m.
The Larnaca airport plans incorporate some solar power utilisation, and Hermes Airports’ CEO, Bob Manning, says the company will be “looking at any ways of saving fuel and lowering emissions”.
Environmental impact studies determined that developers must protect the citrus trees on the Larnaca site and the Eucalyptus groves surrounding the Paphos site. The Larnaca citrus trees have been moved to a plant nursery and will be replanted in the landscaped areas around the new terminal and car parks.
The new Paphos terminal, scheduled for opening in November 2008, will be able to handle 2.7 million passengers a year and the airport runway will be extended to 3,100 metres. Phase 2 (expected to commence in 2019) will extend the runway to 3,100 metres with a new south parallel taxiway.
Of the two airports, Paphos is the most seasonal, handling a high volume of charter flights in summer but little traffic in winter. But if the Cyprus Tourism Organisation’s plans for the island pan out, that seasonality could well disappear – or at least reduce.
By Gina Coleman