BUSINESS

Fraport threat to put off works at Thessaloniki airport

ALEXANDRA KASSIMI, ILIAS BELLOS

TAGS: Privatizations, Transport, Tourism

The Fraport-led consortium’s threat to abandon the operation of 14 regional airports in Greece is forcing the government to postpone works to upgrade Makedonia Airport.

A senior Transport Ministry official confirmed to Kathimerini that the government is considering a six-month suspension of the work on a second runway at the airport, located some 13 kilometers from the center of Thessaloniki, to ensure Makedonia’s unhindered operation over the summer season.

Sources familiar with discussions over the last few days concerning the biggest privatization project to date in Greece explain that it is not just the timetable of the delivery of the airports by February that is under threat, but also the entire project.

If work at Makedonia Airport started today, the existing runway would have to shut down for most of the tourism season as it will be crossed by the new 3.5 km one. A temporary solution involving the use of the taxiing runway would not work in the summer as it would not be able to cope with the traffic at peak season.

Fraport Greece is said to have been unnerved by letters it has received from foreign airlines regarding the reduction or cancellation of flights to Makedonia Airport next summer due to the possible problems the works may generate.

The Fraport/Slentel consortium has submitted to the government a list of pending issues of increased significance that the state has yet to address. These outstanding issues are threatening to raise the costs for the consortium by a considerable amount, according to sources who know about the consortium’s message to Athens.

Kathimerini understands the two sides are in talks over the list, and, if an agreement is reached, the ministry will in the coming days announce the suspension of works at the airport so as not to undermine tourism traffic in northern Greece next summer. Other airports have issues, too, including that of Hania on Crete.

All this also creates problems in Greece’s second bailout review as the completion of privatization projects such as the delivery of the airports to Fraport is among the outstanding milestones.

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