ECONOMY

Iberia ready for more traffic in Greece and Cyprus

Spanish carrier Iberia is considering the addition of another daily flight between Athens and Madrid in anticipation of an increase in passenger traffic, Antonio Medina, general manager for the airline’s operations in Greece, Cyprus and Balkan countries, said yesterday. He said the Iberia management will finalize its program next month and «I’m optimistic that they will either allow bigger aircraft to service the Athens-Madrid route or add another flight.» Crippled by soaring debts and suffering from the global aviation downturn, Greece’s Olympic Airways is expected to discontinue the Athens-Barcelona itinerary in line with its strategy of cutting back on less-than-profitable international routes. The government is trying to sell off the company and a decision on the bid submitted by International Airline Solutions is expected this Friday. Medina, however, is less than happy to see the competition removed from the scene. «It is better for both companies to develop at the same time. It is good to have competition,» he said at an event organized jointly by Iberia and Spain’s tourist body Turespana yesterday. He said that Iberia’s 35-percent share of market is equivalent to Olympic’s. Medina said the Spanish carrier should have no problems getting the green light from Greek civil aviation authorities for an additional flight. The airline offered twice-daily flights between Athens and Madrid via Barcelona in August last year and during weekends in the summer. The load factor was a strong 70 percent. The Iberia general manager said passenger traffic between Greece and Spain has not been affected by the global aviation slump in the wake of September 11. He said that volume in December was «good and so was January.» OTE Telecom, though no longer majority state-owned, could not attract a foreign partner for a stake of up to 20 percent partly because of concerns that the government would continue to exert influence.