‘New Olympic’ blueprint

The government wants to launch a new airline, carved out of the ailing Olympic Airways, with one-third fewer pilots and sharply reduced ground staff, according to a draft blueprint now being negotiated with trade unions. The draft business plan for «New Olympic Airways,» which was made available to Reuters, calls for a cut in the number of pilots to 440 from the 660 now employed by the Olympic Airways Group, through early retirement and a transfer of some 60 jobs to the Civil Aviation Authority. The entire flying staff, including flight attendants, is set to be reduced by some 20 percent to 1,156. Jobs are the sticking point in the government’s efforts to turn around the loss-making state carrier and several past restructuring attempts had stumbled over trade unions’ fierce opposition to job cuts. Seeking to lessen workers’ fears, Prime Minister Costas Simitis last December assured some 7,000 employees that none would lose work because of the airline’s overhaul. The Greek government, whose efforts to find a buyer for Olympic suffered a fresh setback in February and which faces a European Union lawsuit over charges of illegal state aid to the carrier, sees the revamp as the only chance to keep the airline in the air. Sources familiar with the situation told Reuters the government wants the revamped airline to be ready for operation next month. The blueprint aims to limit the total staff of the new airline to 1,850 by leaving most ground jobs in support units such as handling, fueling, technical base and cargo of the Olympic Airways Group outside New Olympic Airways. The plan calls for a gradual sell-off of those units in order to pay off debts. Under the blueprint, the new airline would start with a clean financial bill and a fleet of 44 aircraft built around Boeing 737 jets and turboprop ATRs. It will serve mainly domestic and European routes plus destinations in Canada, the United States and South Africa. (Reuters)

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