Olympic improves market share while shedding flights

Cash-strapped carrier Olympic Airways announced yesterday it flew fuller planes but fewer passengers in the first three quarters of the year as it reduced flights but managed to improve market share. The carrier, which the government wants to privatize, said earlier this week it will end loss-making flights to and from Australia next month in an effort to rein in costs. Olympic flew 3.51 million passengers, a decrease of 11.8 percent year-on-year, on 37,065 flights from January to end-September. Its total number of flights fell 15.7 percent. But, it said, plane occupancy improved to 67.4 percent from 64.9 percent. Its average revenue per passenger increased 32.5 percent on domestic routes to 60.95 euros and rose 13.8 percent on international routes to 193.17 euros. The government has been trying to streamline the carrier in an effort to make it more attractive to potential buyers. It has failed twice to sell a stake in Olympic. The first time was in 2000, when Speedwing, a British Airways subsidiary which had undertaken to manage the company, pulled out of the agreement and BA did not exercise its option to buy a 20 percent stake in the company. A tender to sell a majority stake in Olympic collapsed last year, with bidders pulling out one by one and the last one failing to come up with a letter of guarantee from banks. Olympic said its domestic market share based on passenger volume rose to 58 from 53 percent. The carrier’s main domestic competitor is privately owned Aegean Airlines, which operates a fleet of 19 aircraft and claims a market share of 45 percent in domestic routes. Aegean expects to post losses this year despite an increase in sales. Olympic said sales revenues in Greece rose 24.7 percent year-on-year to 159.4 million euros. Total network sales revenue gained 2.4 percent to 516.9 million euros. The government has also been stripping the carrier of non-core activities. Last month it completed the sale of the catering subsidiary, Olympic Catering, to raise 16.1 million euros ($15.7 million). (Combined reports)