Olympic Air

Olympic Air
Olympic Air
Founded 1957 (Olympic Airways brand)
2009 (as Olympic Air)
Commenced operations 16 April 1957
29 September 2009
Hubs Athens International Airport
Secondary hubs
  • Thessaloniki International Airport
  • Rhodes International Airport
Frequent-flyer program Travelair Club[1]
Airport lounge Olympic Air International Lounge
Fleet size 24
Destinations 40
Company slogan Greek: Η Ελλάδα Ψηλά
English: Greece, Flying High[2]
Parent company Marfin Investment Group
Headquarters Koropi, Kropia, East Attica, Greece
Key people Andreas Vgenopoulos (Chairman)[3]

Olympic Air is the largest Greek airline by destinations served, formed from the privatisation of the former national carrier Olympic Airlines. Olympic Air commenced limited operations on 29 September 2009, after Olympic Airlines ceased all operations, with the official full-scale opening of the company taking place two days later on 1 October 2009. Its main hub is Athens International Airport, with Thessaloniki International Airport and Rhodes International Airport serving as secondary hubs. The airline is headquartered in Koropi, Kropia, East Attica.[4]

The airline uses the IATA code OA that it inherited from Olympic Airlines, and the ICAO code OAL. The airline initially launched using the IACO code NOA, but later reportedly bought the OAL code used by Olympic Airlines for a rumoured €20 million.[citation needed]

On 22 February 2010, Olympic Air and main competitor Aegean Airlines announced they had reached an agreement to merge their operations, phasing out the Aegean brand. After an in depth inquiry by the European competitions commission, it was announced on 26 January 2011 that the merger was blocked citing anti-competitive concerns.



Pantheon proposal

On 16 September 2008 the Greek Government announced a major restructuring of Olympic Airlines, using the "Pantheon Airways" plan to relaunch Olympic as a private airline. Pantheon would operate parallel to Olympic Airlines until April 2009, when Olympic Airlines would be shut down and Pantheon would take over most of its routes. Pantheon would then be renamed using the "Olympic" brand name and the famous six – rings logo. The new Olympic Air would not be a legal successor to Olympic Airlines or Airways, taking up none of the former employees or assets directly.

In February 2009, an international tender concerning the sale of the three companies and the assets of the Olympic Airlines Group (Flight Operations, Technical Base, Ground Handling Operations) and Pantheon Airways collapsed, as the offers presented by the candidates were deemed not satisfactory by the government. After the collapse of this attempt to sell the company, former Transport Minister Kostis Hatzidakis extended an invitation to financial groups to proceed to direct negotiations for the sale of the Group. First to respond was the Marfin Investment Group (MIG), the largest investment fund of Greece, submitting an offer to buy the flight operations and technical base of the Group. Also, Swissport submitted an offer to buy the ground handling operations. After three weeks of negotiations with MIG, on 4 March 2009, Aegean Airlines and Greek-American consortium Chrysler Aviation, also submitted offers to buy the Group. However, Aegean Airlines' offer was not accepted as the new airline would control over 95% of domestic routes, while the government's financial advisors could not determine whether Chrysler Aviation was in the financial position to support its bid.

MIG era

On 6 March 2009, Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis announced the sale of the flight operations and the technical base companies to MIG. The negotiations with Swissport continued for another week, to facilitate a commercial agreement between MIG and Swissport. However, a deal was not reached and MIG announced it would take over Olympic's ground handling operations as well.[5] As a result, after 35 years of state control and 10 years of failed sale attempts, Olympic once again became a private corporation. The new owners planned to secure approximately 4,000 of the 8,500 jobs of the Group.

As part of its deal with the Greek state, MIG purchased the assets of Pantheon Airways, some of the valuable slots of Olympic Airlines in New York, London, Paris, Rome, Frankfurt, Brussels and Bucharest, as well as exclusive rights to the "Olympic" brand name and the six rings logo. It also acquired the right to use the two hangars, the cargo unit of Olympic Airways Services and other facilities at Athens International Airport for 25 years. The new airline planned to only retain 65% of the flight operations compared to Olympic's flight operations in summer 2008, in accordance to a rule imposed by the EU during the approval of the sale.[6] It also had to give up its monopoly on the currently operated state-subsidized island routes, and equally share them with other Greek airlines.[7]

Olympic Handling, as the new ground handling company is named, commenced its operations on 29 June, followed by the new technical base company, Olympic Engineering[8] and finally, on 29 September, the new airline, officially renamed Olympic Air.[5][9] The new name of the company was announced during a tender to modernize and redesign the logo of the new airline.[10] This tender followed a previous one that called for fashion designers to submit their designs for the new uniforms of the airline. Shortly after the deal was struck, MIG announced the recruitment process for the three new companies, as well as new tenders for the acquisition or lease of new aircraft.

Airbus A320-200 taking off from London Heathrow Airport. (2010) This destination was ceased oprations on March 27th, 2011.

Olympic Air ordered eight new next-generation Bombardier Q400 during the 2009 Paris Air Show, four of which will be the Q400 NextGen, that are set to cover domestic and Balkan routes and will start being delivered in July 2010.[dated info][11] OA also placed options on a further eight of the type.[12][13][14] Olympic leased a total of 14 A320 series aircraft for its entry into service in September 2009, and plans to order its own aircraft from either from Airbus or Boeing in the near future.[15]

In a press conference on 17 September 2009, MIG president Andreas Vgenopoulos, announced new code share deals, and stated that Olympic Air also has plans to join SkyTeam in the future.[16][17] Vgenopoulos further stated that he wanted to make the company a regional leader, and later, one of the largest airlines in the world if possible.[17] Olympic Air planned to employ around 5,000 staff, some of which include the 8,100 staff employed under the state carrier, with new negotiated contracts.[17] Furthermore, Vgenopoulos stated the company would honor its commitment to give the new government three months to re-nationalize Olympic if it desired.[16][17] Vgenopoulos also stated that a new aircraft order would be announced soon, to replace the current aircraft once their leases run out.[18]

During the inaugural flight ceremony on 1 October 2009, MIG president Andreas Vgenopoulos stated that Olympic Air still holds the exclusive rights to the Macedonian Airlines brand name, and plans to re-launch the airline as a subsidiary of Olympic Air.[19] The new subsidiary would be based out of Thessaloniki, with the purpose of serving the tourism and business needs of the region.[20] The airline will begin operations in spring 2010.[21]

In an October 2009 interview with ATWOnline, CEO Antonis Simigdalas stated that Olympic was now carrying around 10,000 passengers a day with a domestic market share of about 30 percent.[15][22] Simigdalas further stated that the new Olympic Air was about 35 percent smaller than the old Olympic Airlines, and that Olympic Air is planning its own long-haul flights, within a time frame of 12 months.[22] Regarding profitability, Simgdalas stated that with the current economic conditions, he expects Olympic Air to make its first profit in 2012.[23] He further noted that the ground handling unit was already profitable.[22] In an interview with Flight International, Simigdalis stated that Olympic Air's domestic market share had grown to 47 percent by December 2009.[15] He further stated that if things go well, he predicts the airline will break even in 2011.[15]

On 6 December 2009, Olympic Air announced that it has been chosen as the official carrier of the Hellenic Olympic Committee for three years from 2010 to 2012. Through this sponsorship, Olympic Air has committed to provide free transportation of Greek Olympic delegations to the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver and 2012 Summer Olympics in London. On 10 December 2009, the company announced that mobile phone check-in is now available for flights departing Athens Airport, making Olympic the first Greek airline to offer this service.[24] As part of its corporate responsibility program, Olympic announced that it would launch an educational programme called "A Day at the Museum", transporting 3500 students from Cyprus to the new Acropolis Museum in Athens, starting from 29 January 2010.[25]

In 2011 Olympic Air announced the start of a premium economy service on its fleet of Bombardier Q400 aircraft for domestic and selected international flights,[26] in addition to its business class service. It is currently the only airline in Greece that offers this service.

Attempted merger with Aegean Airlines

In February 2010, initial shareholder discussions took place to consider co-operation between major competitor Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air fueling rumors of a possible merger.[27] On 22 February 2010, Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines announced that they have agreed to a merger.[28][29][30] The newly merged airline would carry the Olympic name and logo, after a transition period in which both airline brands would be used in parallel.[28] The Aegean brand would cease to exist after the transition period. Furthermore, Olympic Ground Handling and Olympic Engineering would become 100 percent subsidiaries of the new company.[28]

The sole shareholder of Olympic Air, Marfin Investment Group, and the main shareholder of Aegean, the Vassilakis Group, would have an equal shareholding of 26.6% in the combined entity, while the groups of Messrs Laskaridis, V. Constantakopoulos, G. David and L. Ioannou as well as Piraeus Bank would all maintain their proportional equity participation in the form of a 46.8% stake in the new company, thus giving Aegean an 73.4% stake overall in the new company.[31][32] It was also announced that the new company would be listed on the Athens Stock Exchange.[28] A decision on the merger was initially expected be given from the European Competitions Commission by the end of September 2010.[30][31]

According to a press releases by Aegean and MIG, Aegean Chairman Theodoros Vassilakis and Olympic Chairman and CEO Andreas Vgenopoulos were expected to lead the new company.[33] Vassilakis stated that the merger was brought on by the size of their competitors in the EU, which made it necessary for Greece's two main airlines to merge to create a "national airline champion" with enlarged presence in the European market as well as seamless coverage of even the most remote Greek islands.[33][34] Vgenopoulos further stated that the merger also would preserve and strengthen the Olympic brand name, an inherent piece of Greek national tradition.[35]

At the time of the merger announcement, Aegean was in the process of becoming a full Star Alliance member,[28] while Olympic Air was forging ties with SkyTeam pre-merger. Despite this, it was announced that Aegean's Star Alliance process would continue with the airlines working to guarantee a smooth transition of the merged carrier into the Star Alliance.[36] Star Alliance welcomed the proposed merger, releasing a statement stating "The integration teams from both sides will soon meet to assess the necessary steps, in order to guarantee a smooth transition of the merged Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air operations into the Star Alliance network".[37] At Aegean's welcome ceremony into Star Alliance on 30 June 2010, Star Alliance CEO Jaan Albrecht future confirmed that the enlarged entity will be a full Star Alliance member if the planned merger wins regulatory approval.[38]

After an initial review of the merger, on 30 July 2010 the European Competitions Commission expressed doubts that the merger meets competition regulations, citing "serious competition concerns" particularly in the domestic market but also on several international routes.[39][40] The EC further stated that it had "serious doubts" the merger met requirements regarding ground-handling at Greek airports as well as the provision of Public service obligation routes, which would bring together the "two strongest and most credible bidders" of the PSO routes.[40] The commission chose to open a 90-day in-depth inquiry into the proposed merger in order to further assess the effects of the partnership.[40] The EC was expected to give their final ruling on the tie-up by 7 December 2010.[40] In an interview with Air Transport World in August 2010, Dimitris Gerogiannis, managing director of Aegean Airlines, stated that their main goal at the time was making the merger work.[41] He further went on to say that merging with Olympic Air is a matter of viability, driven by "economic and business realities".[41] Gerogiannis claimed that Greece is unable to sustain two full-service airlines, pointing out other European countries and airlines as examples.[41] Later than month, Aegean posted its first losses in years, further displaying an urgent need for the merger, while both airlines are planning various cuts.[42][43]

Despite a given deadline of 7 December 2010, Olympic and Aegean were hoping for a decision from the EU earlier.[42] The two airlines expected to hand over all details and documents to the EU as requested by the end of September 2010.[42] Olympic and Aegean were hoping for an early decision in order to synchronize 2011 flight schedules, ideally by November 2010 as is the industry standard, in order to reap the benefits and synergies of the merger as soon as possible.[42] The airlines claimed a later decision would hurt them economically and competitively against other airlines, and delay full benefits from the merger until 2012.[42][dated info]

On 24 September 2010, it was announced that Olympic Air had won the European Regions Airline Association Silver Award: Airline of the Year for 2010/2011.[44] Olympic was praised for operating 190 daily flight within two months of starting operations, despite having been re-launched during an extreme economic crisis in Greece and against a backdrop of a troubled past.[44] It was also mentioned how the airline's operation had brought Aegean Airlines to the negotiation table to agree to a merger within a short time frame.[44]

On 21 October 2010, the EU commission announced that they would delay their decision on the merger until 12 January 2011.[45][46] Commissioner Joaquin Almunia also cited difficulties with the two companies holding almost all the domestic market in Greece.[45] Although a specific reason for the delay was not given, according to publications, the commission typically defers decisions when companies offer to take steps that would ease concerns.[45] On 17 November 2010, Commissioner Joaquin Almunia confirmed that the two carries still face some difficulties in their efforts to overcome antitrust concerns over the merger, but stressed that they still have weeks ahead of them to find an adequate solution until the planned 12 January 2011 decision.[47][48] On 10 December 2010, it was reported by Greek media that the European commission has pushed back their ruling date once again, this time with a new tentative date being set for 2 February 2011.[49] February[50]

On 26 January 2011, the European Commission blocked the merger between the two airlines, citing anti-competition concerns.[51][52][53] The commission stated that the merger would have created a "quasi-monopoly" in Greece's air transport market, with the combined airline controlling more than 90% of the Greek domestic air transport market.[54] The EC further stated its belief that the merger would lead to higher fares for four of the six million Greek and European passengers flying to and from Athens each year,[51] with no realistic prospects that a new airline of sufficient size would enter the market to restrain the merged airline's pricing.[52] Additionally, commissioner Joaquin Almunia stated that the merger would have led to higher prices and lower quality of service for Greeks and tourists traveling between Athens and the islands, where the merged airline would have a near total domination between Athens and Thessaloniki, and between the capital and eight island airports.[53][55] Both carriers offered remedies in an attempt to ease concerns, though the EU believed that they would not be enough to protect travelers adequately and ease competition concerns.[53] One of the remedies proposed by the companies, included offering to cede takeoff and landing slots at Greek airports, though the commission noted that Greek airports do not suffer from the congestion observed at other European airports in previous airline mergers or alliances.[51]

EU competition commissioner Joaquín Almunia stated that the airlines could have won approval if they offered to sell part of their fleet to a potential competitor or let another airline use one of their brand names, per EU suggestions.[56] Aegean Airlines called the brand-name proposal unacceptable, with vice-chairman Eftihios Vassilakis stating that the brand names have huge value which both airlines have worked hard to build. Furthermore, Vassilakis stated that the brand name and fleet remedy does not have a precedent in the history of airline mergers.[57]

Commenting on the developments in a joint press release, Aegean Airlines chairman Thodoros Vasilakis stated "Throughout last year we presented to the European Commission the benefits of the merger for our companies, our passengers and our country’s economy. We also offered important commitments to safeguard consumers as well as measures to facilitate the entry of new competitors in the domestic market. Unfortunately, the EC decided to prohibit the agreement. An important opportunity for a consolidated representation in the European aviation market has been lost. We will adjust and continue. Our track record shows that we can succeed through challenging times."[58] Olympic Air chairman Andreas Vgenopoulos mimicked Vasilakis' thoughts on moving forward, also stating "The EC Decision will have negative consequences for consumers as well as our country’s economy while it will benefit foreign competitors. Obviously we, as well as Aegean, will continue to do our best for the benefit of our staff, our shareholders and our passengers".[58] Both airlines also stated that they will study the block report issued by the EU, and after careful analysis and discussion with their advisers, will decide whether to appeal.[58]

Following a shake up of its board of directors, on 2 March 2011 Olympic Air announced they plan to appeal the EU ruling with Aegean Airlines, while they also announced route network changes as apart of their strategy adjustment, which include the cancellation of most of their western-European routes and additions of domestic and regional routes.[59]


Codeshare agreements

Olympic Air signed codeshare agreements with the following airlines:[60][61]


The active Olympic Air fleet consists of the following aircraft with an average age of 6.2 years:[62][66][67]

Olympic Air fleet
Aircraft In Service Orders Options Passengers Notes
J Y Total
Airbus A319-100 3 0 0 0 138 138
Airbus A320-200 5 0 0 12
ATR-42 1 0 0 0 46 46
Bombardier Dash 8-100 5 0 0 0 37 37
Bombardier Dash 8 Q400 10 0 8 0 78 78
Total 24 0 8

Travelair Club

Travelair Club (written as Travelair Club) is the frequent flyer program of Olympic Air, launched in November 2009. Members can earn miles on Olympic Air, Delta Air Lines and Cyprus Airways flights, car rentals and hotels. It consists of three levels:[68]

  • Blue: Offers seat pre-selection, as well as discounts in restaurant, coffee and pastry shops in Greece.
  • Silver: In addition to Blue level privilleges, the Silver level offers 10% additional award miles on Olympic Air and Cyprus Airways flights, meal pre-selection, waiting list priority on overbooked flights, extra baggage allowance, dedicated check-in and discounts on Blue Star Ferries and Superfast Ferries tickets to destinations not served by Olympic Air. Silver level is obtained by earning 8000 status miles within a year.
  • Gold: In addition to Silver level privilleges, the Gold level offers 20% additional award miles on Olympic Air and Cyprus Airways flights, 24 hours free parking at Athens Airport, access to the CIP Lounges of Olympic Air, Fast Lane security control services at Athens Airport, additional carry on luggage and checked baggage allowance, priority baggage claim and 10% discounts on stays at Classical Hotels in Greece. Gold level is obtained by earning an additional 20000 status miles within a year.

All former Olympic Airlines Icarus Frequent Flyer Program members were offered a 3000 award mile bonus to become members of the Travelair Club.


New uniforms have been selected in an online vote, after an open invitation to designers for Olympic Air flight attendants. Visitors of the site [www.oafashion.gr] could vote for their favourite uniforms among three bids. OA flight staff now wear uniforms designed by the renowned designer Celia Kritharioti.[69]

The new logo was selected in an online vote, after an open invitation to designers. Visitors of the site Oalogo.gr could vote for their favourite logo among three bids. The logo designed by Giannis Papathanasiou and Panos Triantafillopoulos, heavily based on the existing logo of Olympic Airlines, won the vote.[70] The six rings are said to symbolise the five continents and Greece.[71]

Awards and recognition

Since its launch, Olympic has received a number of awards and recognitions:


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