OA pilots at odds with managers

Olympic Airways pilots yesterday said they were opposed to management’s recent decision to discontinue flights to Australia as from October. Pilots also said Olympic needs an infusion of capital to survive intact and not become a regional carrier serving destinations in the Balkans and the Mediterranean. The government has been trying for the past few years to privatize the company, but all efforts – first, by offering the company’s management and a sizable minority stake to a British Airways subsidiary and, then, by calling for an international tender to sell a majority stake in the company – collapsed, the first because of the outright hostility of well-entrenched unions and the second because of the bidders’ failure to come up with the necessary financial guarantees. The present state-appointed management is trying to cut operations and flights to put Olympic’s finances straight. It has even announced it will achieve an operational profit this year. However, and despite several voluntary redundancy programs, Olympic remains overstaffed and governed by the whims of the unions. The management claims, for example, that for a company its size, it employs 30 percent more stewards and stewardesses than other airlines and 60 percent more pilots. The recent decision to terminate flights to Sydney has caused an uproar among the numerous Greek Australians. The pilots yesterday rejected the management’s contention that the annual 30 million euros of losses on the Australian route are due to personnel and aircraft costs. The pilots said that Olympic’s present financial straits are due to the fact that it paid 50 percent over market value in 1998 to lease four A-340 Airbus planes, which it uses on its longest routes, and had agreed to pay for them in 10 years’ time rather than the usual 20. Management circles responded that they do not want to keep the A-340s for 20 years but want to renew the fleet at smaller intervals; that each Athens-Sydney flight costs 600,000 euros; that, after the 20-hour flight, crews stay for 14 days at four-star hotels and, after flying back, take a further nine days off.