Staff cuts and lack of investment indicate a dark future at OA

The future of Olympic Airways technical operations is anything but bright. Already, the opportunity to turn the airport at Spata into a hub of airplane maintenance for the southeastern Mediterranean has been lost. The government has spent left and right on crumbs, but stinted on substance. An ultra-modern technical base was built, with a pioneering metal roof made of five double trusses, supported by 12 concrete pillars weighing 7,500 tons, which can accommodate a large number of aircraft. But rather less investment was made in personnel and equipment. This costs the company millions of euros in lost revenue, which would have provided Olympic, quite apart from everything else, with a huge financial boost. Instead of that, since 1998, following further cost-trimming, disappointed technical staff began to leave the company, taking advantage of voluntary retirement schemes. Concurrently, the system of having engineers serving a long apprenticeship by the side of experienced colleagues also came to an end. Nowadays, the company has 950 technicians, of which 450 are engineers and electronic engineers. Six are women. «The base essentially has been decimated by staff cuts and today just manages to function. For example, seven people are working in the non-destructive checks section, when other companies employ over 100 people. The engine support shop has a staff of 16 people, when rival companies employ 2,500 people. The figures are similar for other sectors,» such as engine components and electronic instruments, said Stathis Bekias, president of the Olympic Airways engineering union. The first thing on the lips of the engineers we met were complaints about how Olympic was being downgraded and its technical base allowed to languish. They pointed out that while recognized by Boeing and Airbus which recommend them to air carriers for maintenance services, the government has turned its back on them. «While we know that we’re equal to or better than our colleagues in other firms, instead of supporting us, it’s trying to privatize us. But will investors sympathize with the needs of the base or will they cut spending further to make a profit at the expense of safety?» asked Bekias.