OPINION

Time to close OA wound

Scene I (circa 1997). The then opposition leader Costas Karamanlis visits then Prime Minister Costas Simitis to discuss «Olympic.» Simitis laments the shambles of the national carrier, but when Karamanlis asks why he doesn’t shut it down, the premier suggests that society isn’t ready for such a move. Scene II (2004). Karamanlis is prime minister and calls the first meeting at his Maximos Mansion headquarters. Olympic Airlines is on the agenda. Karamanlis says that he wants to be rid of this burden once and for all and that action must be taken immediately. His ministers say the country could not host the Olympics without Olympic. These are but two incidents in the long and sad saga of Olympic Airlines. Our political leaders are just inches away from making a decision before they step back. The reason why is not hard to understand. Average Greeks will readily complain about OA, but when any government dares to suggest closing it down, they are suddenly seized by a passion for the supposed national symbol. I wonder how we can possibly still be talking about the «famous rings» in reference to one of the most disreputable brand names internationally. I personally lost all patience with the «rings» while waiting around for hours in foreign airports. We forget all this and focus in our minds on the myth of a brilliant national air carrier. The truth is that each successive administration has exhausted every possible loophole to keep OA alive without being noticed by Brussels. But things have gone too far. If the government were to explain to taxpayers how much OA is costing them, what is happening in Brussels and how the carrier ended up as it is, it would surely score points. If it again goes back on its decision, OA will just become even worse.