UK court upholds ban on direct flights to the north

CYPRUS Turkish Airlines, known as KTHY, has lost its bid in the Court of Appeal to overturn the ban on flights from the UK to the north.
KTHY and its UK tour operator, CTA Holidays Limited, argued that the ban unfairly restricted Turkish Cypriots and their companies wishing to travel and conduct business with the EU and the rest of the world.
Currently, flights to northern Cyprus must land in Turkey first, which is the only country in the world that recognises the ‘TRNC’.
Yesterday three appeal judges ruled that granting permits would contravene the Chicago Convention on International Civil Aviation and constitute a breach of the UK's obligation to respect the rights of the Republic of Cyprus (RoC).
The High Court held that the UK Government was right to refuse permits to KTHY and CTA Holidays as granting them would breach the RoC's rights under the Chicago Convention.
Yesterday the decision was upheld by appeal judges Lord Justice Ward, Lord Justice Richards and Sir David Keene.
Lord Justice Richards ruled: "The grant of the permits sought by the appellants would constitute a breach of the UK's obligation to respect the rights of the RoC under the Chicago Convention and would in consequence be unlawful as a matter of domestic law." No exceptions could be made, the judges ruled.
The court ordered KTHY and CTA Holidays to pay the legal costs of the Secretary of State for Transport and the RoC, who had both opposed the appeal, and to make interim payments of £37,000 each pending the assessment of the final costs bill.
KTHY and CTA, which fly about 100,000 visitors from the UK to the north each year, say the present restrictions increase flight times, fares and fuel emissions.
Permitting direct flights between UK airports and northern Cyprus would have "huge, symbolic importance" for a divided island with a painful modern history, their lawyers argued. The restrictions had "absolutely no operational justification", they said.