ECONOMY

Aegean and Olympic stick to their own parts of the sky

Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air continue to invest in different markets and are sticking to different routes, as required by European Union rules, following the rejection a year ago by the EU of a proposal for the merger of Greece?s two carriers.

The competition between the two airline companies would be impossible to maintain if they shared a number of similar routes and, as a result, Olympic has focused on domestic flights and the Balkans, while Aegean?s domain is further afield, putting an end to the price war that has in a way consumed both companies for the past two years.

Meanwhile, the northern port city of Thessaloniki appears to be attracting attention, while Aegean has intensified its presence at new destinations with flights to a number of Greece?s regional airports as the high cost of using Athens Airport has compelled the company to seek airports at popular tourist destinations and launch international flights from there.

Right now Aegean operates 19 domestic flights (so far, as the competition for the flights to Greece?s most remote areas has not been completed yet) and 49 flights abroad. Last February, it had 23 domestic routes (including remote destinations) and 35 international ones. The carrier has also submitted bids for eight more routes: from Athens to Karpathos, Siteia, Skiathos and Skyros, and from Thessaloniki to Kalamata, Corfu, Samos and Chios. The results of the competition are expected within the next few days. To its foreign itinerary, Aegean has added flights from Athens to Budapest; Iraklio to Moscow, Brussels, Munich and Paris; from Corfu to Brussels, Rome and Milan; from Thessaloniki to Tel Aviv and St Petersburg; and from Santorini and Myconos to Rome and Milan. It has also stopped its flights to Berlin, but it is soon expected to announce its summer schedule that will include more routes.

The international economic crisis, the slump in air travel and the EU?s rejection of the merger proposal are the factors that have compelled Olympic Air to reduce the number of its international flights. The carrier has already made it clear that its focus has been on the markets of Greece and Southeastern Europe for some years and continues to be so. In fact, just a few days ago the company announced the end of its flights from Athens to Amsterdam, while in mid-2011 it also canceled its routes from Athens to Vienna, Brussels, London and Paris, and from Thessaloniki to London.

The cancellation of the London and Paris routes especially was a strategic decision that came after the obligation of the previous management, Olympic Airways, to run these routes ended.

Meanwhile, Olympic Air last year added flights from Athens to Belgrade, Tel Aviv and Corfu, and from Thessaloniki to Iraklio, Hania, Lesvos, Rhodes, Skiathos, Myconos and Tirana.

Olympic is also awaiting the outcome of the competition for remote routes, which is expected to add more flights to its itinerary. The company has submitted bids for 14 routes, specifically Athens to Astypalaia, Icaria, Leros, Mylos, Kythera, Naxos, Paris, Karpathos, Skiathos and Kalymnos; from Rhodes to Karpathos, Kasos, Siteia, Kos, Kalymnos, Leros and Astypalaia; from Rhodes to Kastellorizo and from Thessaloniki to Corfu.