By Chris Elliott……

On our website cyprusscene.com we have written a number of informative articles about travelling with Pegasus Airlines for the benefit of those readers who wish to use the services of Pegasus Airlines to and from Northern Cyprus.

We were invited by Ismet Esenyel, Undersecretary of the Ministry of Tourism and Environment, to arrange to bring representatives of expatriate NGOs to his office to discuss the changes in flight arrangements by Pegasus Airlines and joining us was Zeki Ziya, Director of Cyprus XP Group and Pegasus representative to explain why they were making changes to their method of flight operations and you can read more of this meeting by clicking here and also the statement by the Ministry of Tourism following this meeting by clicking here.

A lot has been written about why Pegasus Airlines have changed their efficient service of landing their aircraft in Turkey and then after re-fuelling and changing the flight number, they take their passengers to Ercan airport in Northern Cyprus without having to leave the aircraft between the UK and Northern Cyprus.

Pegasus Airlines transported 1.6 million passengers to and from Northern Cyprus during 2016 so any adverse changes in the method of passenger transfer just does not add up!

So what is the reality of the current situation and the best way to find out was to use their services and experience the changes as they occur which we did?

Margaret Sheard and I flew from Ercan to Izmir in Turkey on Wednesday 31st May and remained on board whilst the flight crew changed and the plane was refuelled, during which time we were asked by a Turkish immigration officer to show our passports for inspection.

So far so good, but NO, we saw our cases were being unloaded with other luggage from the cargo hold so we called back the very helpful Turkish immigration officer who after speaking with the flight crew said the offloading and reloading of cargo hold luggage for security checks seemed to have started early and we were assured we would receive it when we arrived at Stansted London Airport some 5 hours later. In addition, prior to our flight, we were contacted twice by telephone by Pegasus personnel in Istanbul to help us reconfirm our flights and seat bookings and to our surprise they offered to upgrade our meal 0rders to hot meals at no extra cost by way of apology that the changes were inconveniencing us.

Thank you Pegasus Airlines and Izmir Airport Authorities you did a grand job and we were reunited with our luggage at Stansted Airport, even though one suitcase had been damaged en-route, so why are the changes being made to make life so complicated?

On our return flight from Stansted Airport on the 14th June I had the normal frustration of seeing my worldly goods, hand luggage shoes and trouser belt disappear into a scanning machine whilst I first went through a general purpose metal scanner only for it to sound the alert because of my hip implant. I was then asked to be seated before being scanned in a ProVision 2 full body scanner similar to the one in the video at the foot of this article. After this scan I was given a hand wipe down search and then allowed to continue.

So on the return journey we arrived at Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen Airport where all passengers, including 4 passengers needing wheelchairs, were asked to leave the aircraft and for those passengers flying to Ercan to go to the International Transit Gate where once again we and our hand luggage were rescreened and in my case my false hip caused an alert with the general purpose metal scanner and after a hand wipe down search and check of my hip with a security wand scanner I was allowed to proceed through to the departure lounge.

We then waited at the departure gate and saw two of our fellow passengers in wheelchairs being taken through to board an aircraft. As we walked down the tunnel to the aircraft door I said to Margaret, this is the same aircraft named “Bade” and as we went back to our booked seats Margaret retrieved the in-flight magazine from the back of the seat in front and continued with the Sudoku puzzle she was enjoying when we landed. How mad is this?

Why is all this complexity and accelerating costs of travelling occurring?

Pegasus Airlines have said they that they have had to implement changes to their previous method of operation at the request of the UK Department of Trade and we have seen a letter shared on Facebook from which we have included the following extract.

So there we have it, the request to change is based upon a perceived and seemingly unseen security issue at Ercan Airport, so perhaps the UK authorities should visit Ercan and reflect on the fact that it has, in security terms, a first security line of defence where all passengers and their luggage are screened as they enter the departure building by scanners before they can check in for flights and hand over their luggage for cargo storage.

Compare this with London Stansted where many hundreds of arriving and departing passengers by the hour are in a large airport mall with no screening of them or their luggage as they enter the building.  Remembering the terrorist attack at Manchester, I know where I feel most safe from such threats.

Here in North Cyprus, Ercan Airport has an additional line of defence after immigration control  like Stansted Airport and to replicate the Security features experienced at Sabiha Gokcen International Transit Gate all that would be needed at Ercan Airport it would seem are hand wand security scanners.

If Ercan Airport wanted to emulate the best in security systems, perhaps they should look at the ProVision 2 full body scanners I was tested by at Stansted Airport and perhaps to help them achieve that state of the art security, perhaps they may be able to get EU or UN grants with advice and support to achieve that.

This then is a traveller’s experience of the trials and tribulations encountered when travelling with Pegasus Airlines who have had to change their method of flight operations to suit a request from the United Kingdom.

There are of course many organisations and individuals protesting at the changes that have been made and the impact on people and tourism and you can read some of their letters etc. below.

Embargoed – Letter from the Chairman to UK Secretary of State for Transport. Click here

Association of Turkish Cypriots Abroad – Letter from TRNC Representative to UK Secretary of State for Transport – Click here

We also note that ATCA have shared a link on their Facebook page to a petition of protest ” Direct flights to Turkish Republic of North Cyprus” that has received 3,576 signatures of support and those who also wish to pledge their support can do so by clicking here

Airport Security as it is developing but should it start at the front door like it does at Ercan Airport in Northern Cyprus?