Athens International Airport (AIA), the operator of the Eleftherios Venizelos airport at Spata, said yesterday it will slash landing and parking charges for airlines by 5 to 60 percent, effective November 1. AIA Chief Executive Matthias Mitscherlich said the move will contribute to the cost-cutting efforts of the airlines operating at the airport as well as improve the airport’s competitiveness and attractiveness. Since the airport opened in March, airlines and tourism organizations have been voicing protest at the allegedly high rates charged by the airport operator, blaming the charges for driving away tourists and airline passengers. AIA has come under increasing pressure to cut its rates after the September 11 attacks, as the global airline industry saw passenger traffic plummet and insurance premiums soar. This has caused a number of airlines to either cut routes or reduce flight frequencies. National flag-carrier Olympic Airways is considering trimming its international flights. German airline Lufthansa recently terminated the Thessaloniki-Munich route while Virgin Airlines no longer offers flights to London. Early this month, a group of tourist bodies, hoteliers, industrialists, airlines and car rental agencies sent an open letter to the ministers of national economy, development and transport, urging the immediate abolition of the spatosima, the airport development tax. The revenues from this levy are split between AIA, which takes three quarters of the sum, and the Civil Aviation Service with the remaining 25 percent. Recent media reports suggested that the government is willing to forego a portion of its share with the aim of trimming the charge by 10 to 20 percent. AIA said its decision to cut its charges was also made possible by positive five-month results. Mitscherlich said the company will continue to find ways to assist airlines in order to get out of this crisis. The operator plans to introduce a number of incentives for international routes starting January 1, 2002. It did not give any specifics of the proposals. The new landing and parking charges will benefit heavy aircraft and long-haul planes. Aircraft over 120 tons will get discounts ranging from 6 to 30 percent, while those making long-haul flights will see parking charges reduced by up to 60 percent during their day stop. Parking charges for night stops will fall by between 5 to 50 percent.