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Air traffic slump hits Athens

Commercial air traffic to and from Athens has been reduced drastically following the general slump in air travel worldwide…

Commercial air traffic to and from Athens has been reduced drastically following the general slump in air travel worldwide in the wake of the disastrous attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C.

Virgin Atlantic was the first to eliminate service to Athens. Following the Greek- owned Axon Airlines suspended all service. Cronus Airlines, which had merged with Aegean Airlines, both Greek- owned, has curtailed it Athens- London flights with possible cancellation of service to Rome in the near future.

Several other airlines continue their services to the Greek capital, but with smaller aircraft and reduced schedules, such as Malev Hungarian Airlines utilizing 70- seat Fokker aircraft instead of the larger Boeing airplanes. All due to dramatic decreases in passenger loads.

Gulf Air is canceling service to Greece, as of the end of March, citing high costs at the new Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport.M In one instance of costs aircraft parking at the airport has zoomed in cost from 320 Euros to 1,300. Ethiopian Airlines has cancelled its service to Athens as well.

Lufthansa has stopped its service to Thessaloniki, which had been operated for some 30 years, up to two flights daily. Turkish Airlines has also curtailed its service to Thessaloniki.

In the near future Singapore Airlines and Thai Airlines are expected to share flights with their 1,400 seat capacity a week.

Even aircraft leasing, from Lear jets to commercial airliners, is down some 50 percent.

One effort to stimulate more air traffic to Athens is that of reducing various charges at Eleftherios Venizelos International Airport, which have been rated one of the highest in Europe.

Only positive sign in the air picture of Greece is that Cyprus Airways has announced it intends to crate a new airline for Greece, in a joint venture with Cronus- Aegean, initially for domestic routings and then international as the 2004 Olympic Games draw closer. The new schedules would be non- competitive with Olympic Airways.

Fate of the Greek flag carrier Olympic Airways is somewhat uncertain. All bids to purchase the airline have either been withdrawn or rejected.

One of the more recent announcements has been that there is to be some 40 percent reduction in services (including cancellation of such to Australia and Canada.) There has been one report that the airline is to be divided into three separate companies, one for handling of aircraft, one for maintenance, and a third, for flight schedules, and all three sectors privatized.

The Government has been trying to privatize the airline for several years rather unsuccessfully. The main problem seems to be an overstaffing by some 3,000 to 4,000 employees.

Delta Air Lines appears to be the only to maintain its present schedule of four flight weekly between Athens and New York, expanded to daily during the summer season. But Delta has retired 25 employees in Athens.

CSA Czech Airlines is another airline which has maintained its schedule, of four flights a week to Prague, increasing to six for its summer schedule.

Theodore Koumelis
Co-Founder & Managing Director - Travel Media Applications | Website

Theodore is the Co-Founder and Managing Editor of TravelDailyNews Media Network; his responsibilities include business development and planning for TravelDailyNews long-term opportunities.