ECONOMY

Searching for Beijing flights, as Qatar grounds New York plans

The government is eager to find an air carrier that will serve the route between Athens and Beijing directly to cover the needs that have arisen as a result of strengthening business ties between the two countries.

Requests to this end have already been submitted to Chinese airline companies and a response is expected soon. However, according to sources, there will be no positive response from Hainan Airlines and Air China. The latter launched a service between Athens and Beijing via Munich in May 2011.

At the same time, air services into and out of Greece are not ideal right now, although this summer – a period when winter schedules are usually drawn up – promises busier Greek skies than last year, sources point out. That may not be enough to bring about any significant changes to the state of play.

Qatar Airways’ decision not to start direct flights between Athens and New York after all has disappointed the Greek government, given the noise the company had made when announcing plans for the service last November. Qatar Airways had rushed to fill the void in terms of direct flights between Greece and the US over the last few years, and its chief executive officer, Akbar Al Baker, had announced the service would start in summer 2013, on Boeing 787 or Airbus A380 aircraft.

Al Baker had even stated that Qatar Airways was open to code-sharing cooperations with other carriers in order to support the new service with more passengers from Eastern Europe. Commenting then on the cessation of direct flights between Greece and the US, he had said that “one does not need to withdraw from a destination when the market is not responding. All you have to do is to perform changes on capacity level, adjusting the seats on offer to the conditions of every country.”

Conditions in Cyprus will shape to a great extent the strategy of domestic carriers, and mostly Aegean Airlines, which has a relatively strong presence in terms of international flights. Sources suggest that Aegean is observing developments at Cyprus Airways as the former seeks to expand its hub in Cyprus with a new service linking Larnaca with Tel Aviv, which has a strong commercial interest, and the service between Larnaca and Beirut.