NEWS

Olympic sale still in the balance

Government officials have been sending conflicting signals regarding the planned sale of Olympic Airways, with some of them already speaking of the failure of negotiations with the Integrated Airline Solutions (IAS) consortium, while the ministers of national economy and transportation, both of whom are responsible for the sale, have asked IAS to present to them on Wednesday a list of the chief executives it has selected to lead the company. Senior government ministers are already talking about a solution aimed at resuscitating Olympic Airways using its own means, if the European Commission will approve it, claiming that IAS is not in a position to guarantee the national carrier’s mid-term survival. The deadline for the government to reach agreement with IAS is January 31. One of the issues that Prime Minister Costas Simitis will be discussing today in his meeting with Transport Minister Christos Verelis will be the fate of the tender for Olympic. Despite the division of opinions over IAS, many members of the Cabinet insist that Olympic has to get out from under the State’s wings. At the same time, Olympic appears to be preparing to reduce the number of its routes, beyond even what is proposed in the business plan being prepared by IAS. Sources say that although IAS would keep the Australia route, Olympic’s management has already notified travel agents unofficially that this route will be suspended as of April 1. Also, Olympic is expected to announce the suspension of routes to Barcelona, Naples, Marseilles and Copenhagen. The company is also trying to raise the $15 million it needs on January 14 and January 28 in order to acquire two more B737-400 planes according to a leasing agreement it signed in 1991. At the same time, Olympic is trying to get 15 billion drachmas owed to it by the State in order to find cash to pay wages.