Due to the importance and development of air transport, the colonial Government of Cyprus established the Department of Civil Aviation in 1955. At that time, the responsibilities of the Department were the development and administration of Nicosia airport. The Department also had played an advisory role to the Governor for the development of air transport. As Nicosia airport was used by the Royal Air Force (RAF), certain services such as Air Traffic Control and meteorology were carried out by the military. The Department was staffed with 107 people.
The colonial government’s air transport policy only concerned non-scheduled and charter flights, while approval all other flights was determined by the United Kingdom in accordance with its international obligations.
In 1960, immediately after Independence, the only airport in Cyprus, the one of Nicosia, was used for both civil and military flights from the Royal Air Force (RAF). At that time, seven international airlines performed scheduled flights. In 1960 passenger traffic amounted to 147,000 and air transport movements to 6,615. The capacity of the terminal building was limited, and rather primitive in both appearance and facilities offered. The number of flights through the Flight Information Region (FIR) of Nicosia was only 32,637.
The Control Tower of Nicosia Airport was staffed exclusively by British RAF military controllers and only in November 1960 were the first eight Cypriots sent for air traffic control training, under a scholarship awarded by the Republic of Cyprus. In 1963 and 1964 they took over the operation of the Area Control Centre and the Control Tower, respectively, replacing their British counterparts.
Cyprus became a member of the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO), an agency of the United Nations, shortly after its independence in February 1961.
ICAO has entrusted and delegated to the Department of Civil Aviation the responsibility to provide air traffic control services in a space of an area covering 175,000 square kilometers, which is several times the size of Cyprus.
In 1968 a terminal building was commissioned. In the same year, passenger traffic reached 283,000, representing an increase of almost 100% compared to 1960 figures while the Nicosia Area Control Centre provided services to 61,783 flights.
In 1973, the last full year before the Turkish invasion, passenger traffic was 785,564 while the Area Control Center served 81,563 flights.
As a result of the Turkish invasion in July 1974, the entire civil aviation infrastructure was either destroyed or occupied by Turkish troops. Specifically, the one and only airport of the island was shut down and handed over to United Nations forces. The airport is in the buffer zone now. The Area Control Center, which was residing at the airport, also discontinued operations and the telecommunications and facilities located in the Pentadaktylos Mountains were occupied by Turkish troops. For a period of six months Cyprus remained without air transport and was almost isolated from the rest of the world. In the meantime, it was decided that a new airport would have to commence operations at Larnaca using the abandoned airport of 1948. The facilities for the new airport were rudimentary and consisted of a small prefabricated passenger building, a wooden control tower and a runway of just 1,400 meters of length.
The Area Control Center was temporarily accommodated in the kitchen of the Cyprus Telecommunications Authority building located in Acropolis and had rudimentary equipment. Despite the lack of technical means, the functioning of the Centre was restored two weeks after the disaster.
Passenger traffic in 1975 was only 179.000 passengers, i.e. 1/4 of traffic of the previous year.
In 1983 Pafos airport was inaugurated. The airport aimed primarily at serving the needs of the district of Pafos. Pafos airport has undoubtedly contributed positively and substantially to development of tourism in the district with beneficial effects on the overall economy of the country.
In 1986 the new Area Control Centre was inaugurated. This is equipped with radar and modern telecommunications systems and is located in the CYTA building in Acropolis.
The observed increase in numbers of passenger traffic at our airports, and the demand for air traffic control services, in our opinion, reflects two very basic and positive factors for our country. The first being the preference that the public has for Cyprus as a favorable holiday destination and service center. With proper planning, Cyprus can maintain this favorable status. The other is related to the natural geographical advantage that Cyprus holds which can be exploited, positioning Cyprus as an emerging transit point for air travel.
After the accession of Cyprus to the European Union, the status of the operation of flights within the Union has been liberalized resulting in an increase in competition. Additionally the creation of low-cost airlines and airline alliances as well as global recession have altered conditions in air transport and it is now necessary to ensure the best possible quality of factors of production: an efficient labor force, low cost capital, superior infrastructure.
Recognizing these imperatives, the Government has already advanced the modernization process of the Cypriot airports, Larnaca and Pafos. It has done this by selecting the private consortium Hermes Airports to undertake the construction and modernization of new facilities at both airports via the B.O.T. (Build, Operate, Transfer) method. As a result, the management of the above airports has been undertaken by the aforementioned consortium for a time span of 25 years ratified by an agreement that was signed on May 12, 2006. The consortium had temporarily taken over existing facilities after having made improvements to them, up until the completion of the project and construction of the new facilities.
The Hermes company completed the construction of the new facilities at Larnaca and Pafos under the general master plan prepared by the company ADP (Aeroport de Paris). The new Larnaca airport started operations in November 2009 and in the first phase it has the capacity to serve 7.5m. passengers per year. There is potential for further expansion and construction of a second parallel runway when this is deemed necessary. The new buildings of Pafos airport operated in November 2008 and have the ability to serve 2.7m. passengers per year.