THE NEW €656.3 million Larnaca International Airport is open  for business after being inaugurated by President Demetris Christofias yester­day. Operations will officially begin on Tuesday.
 Christofias was joined by his wife Elsi and Hermes Airport Ltd's founder and Chairman Nicolas Shacolas, as well as a number of officials, includ­ing French Minister of State for European Affairs Pierre Lellouche, Communications Minister Nicos Nicolaides and EU Commissioner Androller Vassiliou. 
A musical performance by the Police Philharmonic Band was followed by a bless­ing from Archbishop Chrysostomos II and more musical events, before the speeches. The invitation-only event wrapped up with a dance theatre performance, fol­lowed by a cocktail recep­tion courtesy of Cyprus Air­ways.
Arriving at the airport, both the President and Elsi expressed their "pride" over the new building. Asked whether he would be en­tering with his right foot, left-wing Christofias joked, "I'll be entering with my left foot, which is luckier".
  As of Tuesday only flights by Cyprus Airways and easy Jet will go in and out of the new airport. All other airlines will transfer their ar­rivals and departures to the upgraded building by No­vember 17.
 "Today is a landmark, not just in the history of Cyp­riot tourism, but also our country's developmental substructure in its entirety," said Christoflas, adding that Cypriots should be feeling especially proud of their new airport.
 The new airport, said the President, would play a sig­nificant role in establish­ing  Cyprus  as a key transit point for decades to come.Christoflas added, "Many of us remember the era when  Larnaca International Airport first operated. Just six months after the Turkish invasion - in February 1975 - the construction and op­eration of Larnaca Airport was of immediate and vital importance for our then se­cluded island. A rushed pas­sengers' building was set up, a wooden control tower and the new airport started operating; even with re­stricted capabilities to start off with". In the difficult years follow­ing the invasion, the tourist industry became one of the biggest crutches for Cyprus' economy, making an opera­tional airport a must. The need to upgrade the island's tourist product, said Christofias, led to the decision to upgrade Cyprus' two airports, in Paphos and Larnaca. "Today, 35 years after the Turkish invasion, the opera­tion of the new International Larnaca Airport is entering a new phase, making today a historic day," he com­mented. "The passengers' area we are inaugurating today is of the highest qual­ity, with modern designs and the latest  technological equipment." The President referred to the significant role the new building will play when Cy­prus takes over EU presi­dency in 2012, by offering the highest level of service.  "With its operation, we feel the new Larnaca Airport guarantees Cyprus plays a significant role in the broad­er Eastern Mediterranean area," he added.

The airport, said Christofi­as, will help Cyprus emerge from the grip of the finan­cial crisis, while the govern­ment ensures the necessary measures are taken to ease the consequences.  Some of these measures include the state's decision to reduce landing duties by a quarter, as well as offering airline companies €4 for eve­ry passenger they transport, which totals to €16 million.The airport, with a capac­ity of seven and a half mil­lion, aims to become a hub in the.wider Eastern Medi­terranean region, said Com­munications Minister Nicos Nicolaides.
 The new airport, he added, is expected to help revive and further boost tourism, increase transit trade and attract new investments.  The new premises, which took just over three years to complete, were built by the French firm Bouyges and is the largest infrastructure project with French involve­ment to date in Cyprus. Pierre Lellouche, President Sarkozy's representative at last night's opening, said "It is greatly appreciated by my government that a French operator has been selected for such an endeav­our, which is also the largest ever French direct invest­ment in Cyprus."  Politically, the new airport is an indication of strength­ening relations between France and Cyprus. "I also think this event bears a par­ticular political meaning. It is a very good demonstra­tion of the wide-range of the bilateral relationship between France and Cy­prus, a relationship that is built on shared values and has deepened over the last ten years," commented Lel­louche. Meanwhile, Shacolas yes­terday announced that at least five new airlines would be using Larnaca Airport  in coming weeks.

Source: Cyprus Mail