ECONOMY

More airline carriers dropping Greece from itineraries

Greece is at risk of finding itself isolated in terms of air connections if carriers continue to strike the country off their itineraries at the current rate.

The most recent hit came from Delta Airlines, which has decided to stop all of its direct flights between Greece and the United States as of this coming fall, even though up until three years ago the American carrier had five direct flights a week linking the two countries and is the only remaining carrier to operate direct flights, along with US Airways, although the latter?s Athens-Philadelphia connection is set to remain for this summer season only. Olympic and Continental have also stopped their direct Greece-US flights, as did United Airlines one year ago. Come this fall, the only way to travel to the US will be via connection with other airports in Europe.

It must be noted, however, that transatlantic travel has been affected not just by the situation in Greece, but by the international crisis that began in 2008 as well, with leisure travelers preferring to take the longer route when it is cheaper.

Other than business travel, which has also experienced a slump, though not to the degree of leisure travel, direct flights between Greece and the US were also important in boosting Greek cruises, according to market experts. The cancellation of direct flights, the experts say, is therefore expected to have a negative impact on demand for cruises.

Air Canada, meanwhile, is still holding off from pulling its flights entirely, though it has reduced its Athens-Montreal route to twice rather than three times a week, while it has also decided not to increase flights to Toronto as it had planned to earlier.

Links between Greece and the US are not the only ones that have taken a hit. A great loss for the Greek market and for Athens International Airport (AIA) in particular was the pullout of Thai Airways, which had been present in Greece for more than 36 years, and which no longer provides direct flights to Bangkok. Gulf Air has stopped its Athens-Bahrain route as well as its Athens-Damascus line, while Singapore Airlines has chosen Istanbul over Athens as its regional connection.

As far as the European market is concerned, Czech Airlines stopped its flights to Prague, an example that will be followed by SmartWings, which used to connect the Greek to the Czech capital with three flights a week. Only Aegean Airlines still flies to Prague today.

Other than carriers pulling out of the market completely, travel has also been reduced by companies cutting back on the number of flights they operate. Croatia Airlines, for example, now has two rather than three flights a week to Dubrovnik, and Aerosvit has just one instead of two flights a week to Odessa.

Finland?s Blue1 will be operating one flight a week to Helsinki until July 5, when it will increase that to three a week until August 4, in contrast to four flights a week last summer to serve tourists.