The intense competition in the domestic market, which started to shrink Ryanair’s share, is the reason why it decided to close its base in Athens this winter.
The Irish-owned low-cost airline announced on Thursday it will close its base in Athens on October 29, attributing its decision to the lack of incentives from the airport and the Greek government, as it claims.
However, its decision, which practically concerns – according to aviation sources – the parking of two of its aircraft at Athens International Airport and not any significant volume of routes inside or outside the Greek market, is more related to domestic competition: Aegean controls a share of the order of 40%, while Sky Express, also of Greek interests, which recently increased the number of aircraft it operates in Greece, has risen to around 15%, industry sources report.
Ryanair has a share of around 7%, while facing competition also from foreign low-cost companies, such as easyJet, Volotea and Wizz. Therefore, as the fees it pays after the completion of the investments in the 14 regional airports have increased, it has decided to limit its presence in the country, without this meaning that it will not operate routes from European destinations to Athens, as it will continue flying to 10 destinations.
Regarding its domestic itineraries in Greece, travel agents report they were anyway limited to one or two destinations (e.g. Santorini), due of course to the pandemic and travel restrictions.
However, Ryanair – known internationally for its tendency to intentionally generate controversy in order to gain free publicity – chose to assign responsibility to the Greek airports and the government: “Athens airport, together with the other Greek airports belonging to German monopoly group Fraport, offer no incentive to stimulate traffic during the winter season, to develop tourism outside the peak season and to connect Athens with other destinations.”
It added that “the government does not provide long-term incentives to airlines to invest in Athens airport in off-peak periods or develop tourism in the way that Spain, Italy, Portugal and Cyprus did,” while “it applies a fee development of airports of 12 euros per passenger.”