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French Version

Jordan's Air Universal plans Cyprus hub

Jordan-based Air Universal wants to use Cyprus's Larnaca airport as its hub to forge a link connecting the Americas with the Far East, its president said. "We want to connect the West and the East using Larnaca airport as a hub," Air Universal president Talal Abu Reyal said.

Abu Reyal said he registered his airline in Cyprus last year and Cypriot authorities are about to wrap up certification of his fleet of two Boeing 747-230Bs that could pave the way for charter flights as early as next month.

"Certification should be finalized in the second half of July," he said, but with the start of scheduled flights not materializing until early next spring.

Once everything is in place, Abu Reyal said he plans scheduled flights out of Larnaca to such far-flung destinations as Sao Paolo, Brazil; Melbourne, Australia; Lahore, Pakistan and Jakarta.

For that, he would need to rely on his Cyprus-based jumbo fleet that will be augmented to six jets by the end of 2005, at an overall cost of $130 million.

Abu Reyal said he selected Larnaca as his base because it straddles three continents, with the fact that Cyprus is a fully fledged EU member also a strong selling point.

The Air Universal chief said his long-haul scheduled flight plans will not clash with domestic carriers, which fly short-to-medium routes to Europe and the Middle East.

He said a lot rides on the planned upgrade of Larnaca and its sister airport in Paphos as the viability of the venture would hinge on top-notch facilities being in place.

Pending the all-clear from Brussels, Nicosia is close to formalizing a deal with French-led consortium Hermes to revamp both airports for a reported 500 million euros ($598 million).

Although the island's market is minuscule relative to other countries, Abu Reyal said his plans include an alliance with national carrier Cyprus Airways and private carrier Helios to share passengers. Air Universal also wants to tap into the lucrative European market with its 350 million-strong consumer base.

Amman,07 19 2005
The Daily Star
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