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ROUTES: Cyprus's Cobalt aiming to serve China

Cypriot start-up carrier Cobalt Air plans to start long-haul flights to China and potentially South Korea next year.

Speaking to Flightglobal during the Routes Europe conference in Krakow today, the airline's commercial chief Mike Hayden said Cobalt intended to acquire three Airbus A330s for "autumn operations next year".

Hayden says a trade delegation is heading to China on 14 May to help secure the necessary traffic licences and that meetings are planned with airports in that nation during the World Routes conference taking place in Chengdu in September.

Long-haul routes to China are, he explains, part of Cobalt's business plan, which is based "around turning Cyprus into a transit hub".

He says Cobalt secured its first leased aircraft, an Airbus A320 (MSN 558), from Lithuania's Avion Express "last week". It was brought in "primarily to secure the AOC [air operator's certificate]" the airline requires.

Cobalt plans to start proving flights in the coming days, Hayden says, with an AOC potentially being issued as soon as these sorties take place.

The start-up will then seek a commercial licence, which he describes as an "administrative process". Hayden adds: "We are hoping to have all that done and dusted and to be able to start selling tickets by 15 May."

Colbalt is aiming to start operations on 1 June, with the first service being a thrice-weekly one to Athens.

The fleet will then "ramp up" to five aircraft by 1 July. Four of these will be dry-leased and the fifth provided by an ACMI provider. Beyond the A320 sourced from Avion Express, Cobalt is still evaluating which Airbus narrowbody types it wants.

Other routes to follow include services to London Stansted and Manchester from "mid-June", Hayden says. A document seen by Flightglobal shows that Cobalt is interested in adding routes to Cardiff, Dublin, East Midlands, Glasgow and Paris, as well as, in the Mediterranean market, to Beirut, Chania, Heraklion and Thessaloniki.

Hayden says there is "bucket-and-spade" traffic coming from the UK and Ireland, plus "last-minute holidays", as the carrier will start operations later in the season.

Cobalt, he adds, is looking at "feeder connections from both Tel Aviv and Beirut they will hook up with Beirut directly into both Paris, Stansted and Dublin".

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