Aegean/Olympic merger would dominate Greek domestic market but would still have less than 50% of international scheduled capacity at Athens this summer

As Greeks come to terms with the harsh realities of the country’s parlous financial position, and the country endures a variety of general strikes (including from the country’s air traffic controllers), the nation’s two biggest airlines, Aegean and Olympic Air, announced plans to merge. What would such a merger mean for the Greek market in network planning terms?

At present, the two airlines compete on many routes in the domestic market where between them they operate around 80% of flights and account for just over 90% of seat capacity.

Airline Frequency share Capacity share Routes
Aegean Airlines 31.6% 47.5% 20
Olympic Air 46.9% 43.1% 36
Athens Airways 11.7% 6.3% 19
Sky Express 9.5% 2.6% 26
Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 March 2010 2007 Aegan article

How we saw things in 2007 – now merger will give the entity up to 70% of all flights and seats at Athens, making it just about the most dominant major European flag carrier at its home base.

Olympic currently serves more airports, and operates more routes, but uses smaller aircraft (Q400s) on many of the domestic services. Merging the two carriers would create a new enterprise with a dominant position in the domestic market, which is unlikely to be good for consumers as fares are unlikely to fall, especially as the other competitors are much smaller: Athens Airways, which recently celebrated its first birthday, operates a small fleet of 50-seat regional aircraft on routes mostly involving Athens, while Sky Express has a handful of Jetstream aircraft mostly operating from Crete.

Merged airline would dominate Athens

Analysis of schedule data in the Greek domestic market reveals that over 80% of flights and almost 90% of seat capacity is on routes to and from Athens. Aegean and Olympic Air are already the two leading airlines at Athens airport. Merging the two would give the combined entity between 65% and 70% of all flights and seats at the airport. This would make it just about the most dominant major European flag carrier at its home base.

Chart: Top 12 airlines at Athens Airport Weekly departures

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 March 2010

However, this dominance is primarily due to its domestic networks. If these flights are excluded, on international routes the merged carrier would have just under 50% of all flights and seats operating from Athens airport.

A total of 30 international destinations are currently served at least daily from Athens, with Larnaca and London leading the way. A merged Aegean/Olympic would only have a monopoly on one route (Tirana) with passengers having a choice of at least one ‘foreign’ carrier on the remaining 29.

Chart: Top 30 international routes from Athens Weekly departures by airline

Source: OAG Max Online for w/c 1 March 2010

Aegean and Olympic currently compete head-to-head on 12 of the top 18 international destinations and yet between them serve just 21 of the top 30 international destinations. The nine destinations not served include the three ‘MEB3’ (Middle East Big 3) hubs in Abu Dhabi, Doha and Dubai; two Swiss destinations (Geveva and Zurich); plus Budapest, Manchester, Moscow and Warsaw.

In terms of airlines, Lufthansa (serving Frankfurt and Munich) and easyJet (now with six routes to Berlin, London, Manchester, Milan, Paris and Rome) operate the most weekly international seats after Aegean and Olympic.

Countries not currently served non-stop from Athens by any airline (at least in winter) include Finland, Ireland, Norway and Portugal, while Sweden is served with just a weekly service operated by Viking Airlines.

Merged carrier to resurrect long-haul flights?

Neither Aegean nor Olympic currently operates long-haul flights. The only non-stop transatlantic flight from Athens is with Delta to New York JFK, while Singapore Airlines offers two weekly flights to Singapore. Apart from the ‘MEB3’ airlines, Gulf Air, Royal Jordanian and interestingly Air Arabia offer connections to Asia through their Middle Eastern hubs.

In the past, Olympic’s long-haul routes lost a lot of money and seemed to be operated primarily out of a sense of national pride. It will be interesting to see if the “new” airline’s management, enthused by the enterprising pedigree brought to it from Aegean, will remain focussed on trying to operate a quality short/medium-haul network driven by sound business principles or whether it will be temped to stretch its ambitions to include long-haul services.


  1. Mark says:

    Continental Airlines operates seasonal service to Newark; US Airways operates seasonal service to Philadelphia; Air Canada will soon launch seasonal service to Montreal and Toronto.

  2. GRAviation says:

    I think that Summer schedule should also be put into account of this analysis. For example for the long-haul route analysis, you state “The only non-stop transatlantic flight from Athens is with Delta to New York JFK, while Singapore Airlines offers two weekly flights to Singapore.” This is true currently, but when the summer season starts you also add on flights: PHL-ATH (US Airways), EWR-ATH (Continental), YYZ-ATH (Air Canada, Air Transit), YUL-ATH (Air Canada, Air Transit) ATL-ATH (Delta). And Continental is going year-round once again. Also the current Delta JFK-ATH flight is a code share with OA. You also forgot Thai Airways which fly BKK-ATH three times a week currently. Also I think that Aegean joining Star Alliance this year is something that is important….

  3. GRAviation says:

    Also the merger is not planned to be completed until late 2010/early 2011….

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