Olympic Air launches: 24 aircraft but just 10 international routes; Aegean competes on eight

Image: Route Launch
First day: Olympic Air’s first flight, an A320 to Thessaloniki (only 10 international routes are operated by the new airline).

On Thursday 1 October the latest incarnation of the Greek national flag carrier started operations. Now privatised (owned by Marfin Investment Group) and known as Olympic Air, the airline will initially utilise a total of 24 aircraft (five A320, eight A319s, seven Q-400s, three Dash 8-100s and an ATR 42), increasing to 31 by next spring with the addition of two A320s, one A319, three Q400s and one Dash 8-100. A total of nine Q400s are being wet-leased from Flybe for a period of between 12 and 18 months while Olympic Air’s own Q400s are delivered.

Image: Yiannis Parachis
Dr. Yannis Paraschis, CEO of Athens International Airport (AIA), and Andreas Vgenopoulos, Chairman of Marfin Investment Group (MIG) relaunch Olympic as “Olympic Air.”

Initially only 10 international destinations served

From its base at Athens airport the new Olympic Air is currently only selling seats to 10 international destinations. These are summarised below:

Destination Olympic Air WF
(aircraft type)
Competition (Weekly Frequency)
Amsterdam 7 (A320) KLM (17)
Brussels 13 (A319) Aegean (7), Brussels Airlines (7)
Bucharest Otopeni 7 (Q400) Aegean (12), Tarom (6)
Larnaca 14 (A319) Aegean (28), Cyprus Airways (31)
London Heathrow 21 (A320) Aegean (14 from 25 Oct 09), British Airways (22)
Milan Malpensa 7 (A319) Aegean (14), easyJet (7),
Paris CDG 14 (A319) Aegean (14), Air France (28)
Rome FCO 7 (A319) Aegean (14), Alitalia (21)
Sofia 7 (Q400) Aegean (9), Bulgaria Air (3)
Vienna 7 (A319) Austrian (10)
Source: Olympic Air and OAG Max Online for w/c 5 October 2009

Frequencies on several of these routes increase at the start of the winter season; Bucharest increases to two flights per day from, Milan increases to 10 flights per week, Rome increases to 12 flights per week. Sofia increases to twice-daily from 1 December. Routes that are no longer served but which were listed in OAG as served by the old Olympic in early September include:

Region Destination (Weekly Frequency in September 2009)
Europe Belgrade (9), Berlin Tegel (5), Frankfurt (7), Istanbul (14), Madrid (7), Manchester (3), Milan Linate (7), Moscow SVO (5), Munich (5), Tirana (7)
Middle East and Africa Alexandria (4), Beirut (4), Cairo (6), Dubai (1), Johannesburg (3), Kuwait (2), Tel Aviv (7)
North America Montreal (4), New York JFK (8)
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 7 September 2009
MIG’s Vgenopoulos: “We have the custody of the name but we are not the owners – the name belongs to the Greeks.”
MIG’s Vgenopoulos: “We have the custody of the name but we are not the owners – the name belongs to the Greeks.”

To compensate for the major reduction in international services Olympic Air is negotiating agreements with other airlines. A partnership with Delta Airlines has already been agreed for code share flights to New York starting in early October 2009. This cooperation will be further enriched through services to additional destinations within America and Canada, starting in 2010. Furthermore, a code sharing agreement between Olympic Air and Air France is also being finalized for flights between Greece and France, as well as flights to Montreal beginning in March 2010. Furthermore, Olympic Air is approaching the completion of a code sharing agreement with Etihad Airways for flights to and from Abu Dhabi, as well as for flights to and from South Africa and Australia. Cooperation agreements are also being finalized with CSA-Czech Airlines for the Prague route, with Fly Baboo for Geneva, with Cyprus Airways to Larnaca and Paphos, and with Aerosvit for Kiev and Odessa.

The German market remains a challenge for Olympic Air as rival Aegean co-operates closely with Lufthansa while potential partner airberlin currently does not serve the Greek capital.

Image: Yiannish Parachis
AIA’s Paraschis: “At times no one thought Olympic could recover – today is special, the most important after the opening of Athens International Airport.”

Athens hub for domestic network

The new Olympic Air appears to serve 19 domestic airports and intends to serve a further 14 under the Public Service Obligations (PSO) scheme. The highest frequency domestic routes are to Thessaloniki (eight daily flights) and Heraklion (six daily flights), while Chania, Mytiline, Rhodes and Santorini are each currently served with three daily flights.

Apart from Aegean Airlines domestic competition is also being provided by newcomer Athens Airlines on most of Olympic Air’s domestic routes.

Image: Olympic
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