NEWS

Olympic set to fly free of its burdens

Greece’s troubled national carrier Olympic Airways is expected to emerge in its new shape in September, freed of present burdens, if the last section of its employees agrees to the government’s plan today, Transport Minister Christos Verelis said yesterday. The airline was among several matters discussed at a five-hour meeting with Prime Minister Costas Simitis and National Economy Minister Nikos Christodoulakis. The meeting was part of Simitis’s intensified effort to use the economy to change the political climate, which has seen his PASOK party trailing the conservative New Democracy party in the polls. Legislation regarding Olympic is expected to split the old company, keeping only the flight division and adding current subsidiaries Olympic Aviation and Macedonian Airlines. «We are completing negotiations with all sectors of employees in the flying section of the company, and with some we have reached agreement,» Verelis said. «We are awaiting a reply from the last two sectors, but we cannot wait any further and by tomorrow we must have their definitive reply, because in the next few days we will finalize the text of the amendment we will submit to Parliament and this will determine the next steps toward the creation of the new Olympic Airways,» he said. Although cabin crews are said to have agreed to the plan, pilots are believed to be holding out as not all will have jobs in the new company. «When we send the amendment to Parliament in the next few days and when it is voted on, we will start the procedures for this company to be set up and to start functioning at the end of September,» Verelis added. After repeated failures to find interested buyers, New Olympic Airways will be state-owned, while the current Olympic Airways will no longer be considered an air carrier. Groundhandling operations, a profitable segment, are expected to be separated from the old company and become an independent firm that will sign a contract with New Olympic Airways.