New Athens Spirit Airlines Takes Aim at Aegean Airlines

(AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon, file)

A new Greek airline, Athens Spirit Airlines plans to start operations in April to challenge the supremacy of Aegean, which became the country’s major airline – rated Europe’s best seven years in a row – after swallowing up the former national carrier Olympic Airlines.

Athens Spirit was founded in June, 2017 but didn’t submit a request for an an air operator certificate from the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority until January this year, Deal News reported.

Athens Spirit Airlines wants to start with a fleet of four Airbus A319s and two Airbus A340s to operate flights both within Greece and abroad and take on Aegean. Athens Spirit Airlines was funded by investments from several rich members of the Greek Diaspora but faces a tough battle against the established Aegean, now one of the European Union’s elite carriers.

Aegean has 153 destinations, carries 15 million passengers a year, had 60 million euros ($68.02 million) in profits, a young modern fleet, Star Alliance membership and the backing of the Greek state.

The leader of Athens Spirit Airlines is a well-known manager in the Greek aviation history: Vassilis Dorizas, a retired pilot, who was the manager of Olympic Airways, where he worked for more than 16 years before heading into the management of a state pension fund.

In October 2012, Dorizas was one of the founders of Sky Greece Airlines, which started operations in May 2015 with a Boeing 767-300ER but didn’t last six months, showing the daunting task facing Athens Spirit although Greece is expecting another record summer season and regional airports were privatized and upgraded.

More than 20 other smaller, budget airlines have gone bust in Greece but there are some surviving competitors, such as Ellinair and Sky Express. Ellinair has a fleet of 10 aircraft began with a privileged field for itineraries to and from Russia, said Aeronautics Aviation News, and is expanding to new domestic and international destinations.

Sky Express doubled its fleet and passenger number in 2018. Today, it flies 12 aircraft to 32 destinations throughout Greece, with the Grillos Group also dominating handling via Swissport Hellas.

Other successful startups include Astra Airlines, with a fleet of four aircraft covering 18 destinations; Air Mediterranean; Olympus Airways, which has six aircraft; Bluebird Airways; Swiftair Hellas; GainJet Aviation; and Orange2Fly.

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