German low-cost airline Germanwings yesterday made its debut in the Greek market, with its appearance likely to put further strain on national carrier Olympic Airways and pose a strong challenge to privately owned Aegean Airlines. Germanwings, the third budget airline to service the Greek market after Easyjet of the UK and Brussels-based Virgin Airlines, is confident it can stake out a strong presence in Greece, Heinz-Joachim Schottes, senior vice president of corporate communication, told Kathimerini English Edition. «We are aiming for a load factor of at least 80 percent and an average passenger yield of 50 to 80 euros. At the moment, we see it’s easy to reach these goals based on today’s inaugural near-capacity flight,» he said. Price is expected to play a major role in attracting customers. Fares start from 19 euros and gradually go up in increments of 10 euros the closer the departure date approaches. More than two-thirds of seats are priced below 70 euros. Special offers every second Thursday, such as 100,000 seats for 19 euros, due to kick off today, are seen as extremely effective marketing ploys. Schottes said the airline’s decision to use Cologne as the hub of its operations is another drawing point. Located in central Germany, the city provides easy access to other major cities such as Frankfurt and Dusseldorf. Germanwings’ debut could not have come at a better time as German tourists regain interest in Greece following the end of the war in Iraq. TUI, Europe’s largest travel company, yesterday reported a pickup in demand for vacations in Greece and Turkey. Analysts said the German low-cost airline, which offers flights from Cologne to Athens and Thessaloniki, could prove to be a formidable competitor for Olympic Airways and Aegean Airlines, as all three service almost identical destinations. From its hub in Cologne, Germanwings also flies to the major metropolitan cities in Europe and the big cities in Germany. Schottes said the budget airline has been immune from the fallout from the war in Iraq and the SARS outbreak. The Association of European Airlines said member carriers could lose as much as $2.5 billion this year as the two events dampened travel. Germanwings is 25 percent owned by German carrier Lufthansa.