GR US

Nicholas Athans, Gentleman of the Greek Travel Industry, 90

The National Herald

Nicholas Athans was 90. (Photo: Courtesy of the family)

MIAMI, FL – On August 9, Nicholas M. Athans fell asleep peacefully at his home in North Miami, FL after his battle with multiple myeloma.

He was born on June 16, 1930 in the beautiful seaside village of Sigri on the Greek Island of Lesvos.

His parents Menelaos and Vasiliki were displaced from Turkey during the exchange in 1922 and came to Lesvos to start a new life. His father Menelaos was a cargo ship owner and ship captain who travelled the Aegean.

After receiving high grades in school in Mytilene, Lesvos, he was accepted to the esteemed Pantios University in Athens. His initial university education was suddenly ended with his draft into the Greek Navy, where he served for three years.

Never giving up on his dreams for continuing his higher education and succeeding in his life, Athans came to the USA in 1955 to attend the University of Miami where he earned his Bachelor Degree in Business, specializing in Airline Administration. At the University of Miami he met his wife Thalia (Vgeros). They married in 1959.

Nicholas Athans was a pioneer in the travel industry who opened the door for thousands of people to travel the world. He started his career with Northeast Airlines in Miami, and then went to New York in 1962 to work in the Greek travel industry. He saw the need in 1963, while in New York, to create mass travel to Greece, and sent the first non-stop flight from the USA (New York) directly to Greece.It was a chartered TWA plane and by doing so opened the USA travel industry to Greece in grand style.

He paved his way to open his own company, Tourlite International on Fifth Avenue in Manhattan. It became the largest and most successful Greek tour company from the USA to Greece.

He was definitely a risk taker and considered by all to be the “Gentleman of the Greek travel industry.”

After his tremendous success with travel from the USA to Greece, he expanded and added flights to other European cities, and to the Eastern Mediterranean countries of Turkey, Israel, and Egypt, and then expanded to South and Central America countries, all at affordable prices. His incredible foresight led him to the charter airline industry where he then started his own charter airline, Arista International Airlines in 1982. This complimented his whole tour operation.

He was a highly respected businessman and very loyal to his partners in the industry.  He was featured in the New York Times Travel Section and on the cover of a very respected travel magazine Travel Agent, as well as, numerous other trade publications. He was also on the Board of Directors of a New York Bank, Interbank. He was president for many years of the American Hellenic Tour Operators Association (AHTOA) and Brazilian American Tour Operators Association (BATA).

He was a past board member and active member of the church he came to live in North Miami, the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation.

Athans was a wonderful husband and adoring father and grandfather, always generous and full of life. He travelled the world, was a wonderful dancer and singer. 

His happiest days were spent at his waterside birth home in the Village of Sigri and at the helm of his boats cruising the Mediterranean and South Florida.

Always eloquent charming, adventurous and poetic, it was of no surprise that on a very recent day he said to us ... “I am making plans for our next flight.”

Athans is survived by his wife of 61 years Thalia, daughter Valerie and husband Ioannis Papaioannou, with son Niko, and daughter Maro and husband Dr. James Doundoulakis with children Thalia and James and sister Aglaia. He was predeceased by his brother, Spiro.

He was our guiding light and we are all better for having known him.

The funeral will be held on Thursday, August 13 at 11am, with viewing from 10-11am, at the Greek Orthodox Church of the Annunciation, 12250 NW 2nd Ave, North Miami, FL 33168.

In lieu of flowers, donations may be made in his memory to the church.