Champing at the bit for the last four months, Australia’s Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS) yesterday finally got the chance to put its case for the purchase of ailing state carrier Olympic Airways before privatization adviser Credit Suisse First Boston. Today is the first day of talks between IAS and CSFB on the privatization of Olympic Airways, Transport Minister Christos Verelis told a press conference yesterday. Negotiations will last for 35 days with a review after the initial 15 days. He said the government’s principal focus is on a bidder or bidders with adequate capital, a reliable management and a credible business plan. We want a partner that will be able to ensure Olympic’s viability, especially with a view to the 2004 Olympic Games, Verelis stressed. The decision to turn to third-placed bidder IAS comes after four months of fruitless talks with private airline Axon Airlines, which was rated first by CFSB. Despite the State’s decision to turn to the Australian company, which has the backing of Olympic pilots and magnates such as Constantinos Angelopoulos and Pavlos N. Vardinoyiannis, it has not ruled Axon out from the process, the minister said. Verelis had previously urged both bidders to join forces to take over the debt-laden national carrier, or failing that, to enlist more corporate firepower for their offers. While Axon expressed its willingness to link up with the rival bidder, IAS said it wanted the State to give its bid a fair hearing. Grigoris Konstantelos, head of the union of Olympic pilots, told Kathimerini English Edition that IAS was willing to accept a shorter negotiating period compared with Axon. IAS had also downsized its business plan for Olympic, proposing to maintain 5,000 full-time employees and 2000 seasonal workers and trim international routes. Its original business plan had been criticized as too ambitious by the privatization adviser. Konstantelos said IAS was willing to consider some form of cooperation with Axon should its offer be ruled inadequate. Our aim is to upgrade the quality of services and bring about a differentiation in and enrichment of tourism destinations and products, he said.