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Passengers stranded as Cypriot airline goes bust
[LARNACA, Cyprus] Cypriot low-cost carrier Cobalt Air announced it was cancelling all flights from Thursday after just two years in operation, leaving passengers stranded and scrambling to get their money back.
The airline warned customers its offices would no longer be staffed and urged them to seek refunds through their travel agent or credit card company.
In a brief announcement issued on its website without prior warning late on Wednesday, the airline said it was cancelling all flights from 23:50 pm (2050 GMT) "due to indefinite suspension of Cobalt's operations".
"As a result, future flights or services provided by Cobalt will be cancelled and will no longer operate," it added without elaborating on the reasons.
The airline advised passengers who have tickets not to go to the Mediterranean holiday island's main airport at Larnaca on Thursday or attempt to contact its offices "as no Cobalt flights will operate and no Cobalt staff will be present".
"For refunds, please contact your credit card provider or travel agent," its statement said.
"We sincerely apologise once again and would like to thank our very loyal customers for their support over the last two years of Cobalt operations."
Cobalt, the largest Cypriot airline since the collapse of the state-owned flag carrier, ceased operations after reports that it had failed to reach a deal with a potential European investor.
It is not yet clear how many passengers have been affected by the sudden shutdown.
But the Cypriot transport ministry said passengers expecting to fly with Cobalt on Thursday should secure one-way tickets in economy class from another airline and keep their receipt to be reimbursed.
Nine flights had been scheduled to arrive and nine to depart from Larnaca airport on Thursday.
Transport minister Vasiliki Anastasiadou said that any stranded passengers in Cyprus would be helped.
Reportedly, the company has only 15 million euros in its accounts, which it needed to pay its 200 staff.
There was speculation that the budget airline was facing cash flow problems after two of its aircraft were grounded for two days.
Although Cobalt refused to comment on the rumours, sources within the company reportedly attributed the liquidity problems to difficulties faced by Chinese investors in exporting capital due to Chinese government restrictions.
The airline's largest shareholder is AJ Cyprus, with 49 per cent of the shares. AJ Cyprus is owned by China's AVIC Joy Air.
Cobalt stepped in to replace bankrupt state-owned Cyprus Airways, which shut down in January 2015.
Cobalt started flight operations in 2016 and acquired six aircraft - two Airbus 319s and four Airbus 320s flying to 23 destinations.