BUSINESS

Greek air market proves very attractive to foreign carriers

ALEXANDRA KASSIMI

TAGS: Transport

Three years after the country’s biggest airline tie-up, between Aegean and Olympic Air, the two companies were proven right when they stressed to the European Union’s competition authorities that their marriage would not hurt competition in the domestic market. The latter is now full of new players, local and foreign, despite the demise of Cyprus Airways, which had then appeared as the obvious rival.

Not only is there scope for new entrants but the market is also being utilized to the full, as the rise in domestic traffic and the dynamic increase in tourism have made Athens’s links with the country’s tourism destinations particularly attractive. This summer there will be a total of 122 weekly flights from Eleftherios Venizelos Airport to island and mainland destinations within Greece by foreign airlines, of which 14 services are new additions.

Despite its constant threats to depart from Greece, Ryanair has made the most dynamic entrance into the local market. This year it has added Myconos and Corfu to its schedule, with five and three weekly flights respectively. Every week the Irish airline flies 112 domestic services out of Athens: 20 per week to Hania, 14 to Rhodes, 49 to Thessaloniki, 21 to Santorini, as well as Myconos and Corfu.

Last week Barcelona-based Volotea added Myconos and Mytilene to its summer schedule, with three weekly flights to each destination. This comes in addition to its four weekly trips from Athens to Santorini.

Besides market leader Aegean, which this year serves 34 local destinations and 111 foreign ones, the domestic network also features a number of other companies, including Sky Express, Ellinair and Astra Airlines.

At the same time, foreign carriers also have a strong presence at Greek destinations as they constantly increase their international links. Emirates boosted its weekly flights between Athens and Dubai from seven in 2015 to 12 this year. Delta is doubling its New York-Athens flights to reach one per day at the end of May. United Airlines, which had stopped its Athens-New York link in 2011, is now resuming the service with a weekly connection.

FlyNiki will link Austria (Vienna, Salzburg and Graz) to 17 Greek destinations. Finnair is beginning scheduled flights from Finland to Santorini, Lesvos, Zakynthos and Skiathos, while Dutch carrier Transavia is increasing its flights to Greek islands (Santorini, Rhodes, Crete, Corfu, Kos, Zakynthos etc). EasyJet is also strengthening its schedule for the summer, while British Airways is adding direct flights from London to Hania and Kalamata this year.

On Saturday Lufthansa resumed its services linking Munich with Iraklio on Crete and started a new one to Santorini, while on Sunday it added its Corfu weekly service.

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