NEW YORK – Petros Garyfalakis, Senior Strategy and Planning Analyst at American Airlines, spoke with The National Herald about the airline's three direct routes this summer to Athens.
Garyfalakis, who has been working with American Airlines for five years, says that the public response has been positive and people want to travel to Greece. He also reassured those with concerns about the flights and about the flexibility offered by the company's policy. He clarified that vaccination is not a mandatory condition for boarding an American Airlines aircraft, but noted that the use of the two special digital certification applications will make the implementation of travel protocols much simpler.
TNH: Tell us about the new routes. How many will there be, available from when, and until when? And if there is a new route, what do you expect?
Petros Garyfalakis: American Airlines is looking forward to reconnecting Greece and the United States this summer. Starting in June, American will operate two daily flights from Athens (ATH), increasing to three daily flights from mid-August until the end of October.
From June 3, American will launch new summer service between New York (JFK) and ATH and on June 5 from ATH to JFK, as part of our new strategic alliance with JetBlue. The route will be operated on Boeing 777-200 aircraft, featuring 36 Flagship Business seats, 24 Premium Economy seats and 212 seats in Main Cabin.
Also beginning in June, American will restart summer service from ATH to Chicago (ORD), operated on Boeing 787-8 aircraft, featuring 20 Flagship Business seats, 28 Premium Economy seats and 186 seats in Main Cabin.
Finally, from August 17, American will restart service between ATH and Philadelphia (PHL). This route will be operated on Boeing 787-8 aircraft.
TNH: Is it safe for the passengers to proceed with booking or is there a possibility of postponing, rescheduling, or cancelling the whole schedule of flights, regarding the restrictions and protocols that are still on for Greek – and EU citizens – entering the U.S.? we ask this in light of the cancelations that took place last year.
PG: We are committed to making returning to travel as easy as possible for our customers. We offer flexible ticketing policies if our customer's plans change, including waivers for international travel. We are looking forward to returning to Athens and reconnecting our customers in Greece and the United States.
TNH: Will the airline require a digital vaccination pass, and which of the social distancing measures will remain in place?
PG: American Airlines does not currently have vaccination requirements for customers. We do have tools available to our customers, like VeriFLY to help ease the travel journey and upload documentation required by their destination.
TNH: Will the passengers need to be tested if they are vaccinated?
PG: The U.S. and countries around the world have imposed a range of travel restrictions and testing requirements due to COVID-19. Travel requirements are updated often, so we advise our customers to check the latest entry requirements before travel.
To help our customers, American has launched a new travel tool, powered by Sherpa, to provide customers with a more streamlined pre-travel experience. Through the Sherpa travel guide, customers can learn the most up-to-date coronavirus (COVID-19) travel guidelines and requirements.
TNH: In the airline ticket industry, there are plenty of options online, but also there are unscrupulous professionals and scammers. What is your advice to the public, regarding the booking process?
PG: American recommends booking direct on our website, via our reservations team who are available 24 hours a day, or through our valued travel agency partners.
TNH: For the U.S.-Greece route, what were the numbers back in 2019 and what are the numbers so far?
PG: While we cannot share specific data relating to our bookings for competitive reasons, we are excited about returning to Athens.
We know there is a lot of pent up demand for leisure travel in particular, and we've seen that when restrictions are lifted in tourist destinations bookings are quick to return. We are hearing from our customers they are looking forward to vacations, and also reuniting with friends and relatives in Greece and the United States.
TNH: Tell us about the meeting with Greek Tourism Minister Haris Theoharis.
PG: American was incredibly honored and grateful to meet with Minister Theoharis at our Skyview campus near Fort Worth, Texas. During the session, American was pleased to host meetings with leadership representing our Global Sales, Customer Experience and Reservations, Network Planning and Revenue Management teams.
We enjoyed a robust discussion on the health and safety protocol that American has put in place through our Clean Commitment to ensure our customers have peace of mind when they travel.
This was a tremendously important session for American, and for me personally. As a Greek who grew up and completed my Bachelor's and Master's in Greece before moving to the United States, I was privileged to spend time with Minister Theoharis. I felt grateful that through my role at American, I can contribute in a small way towards the Greek economy which benefits greatly from tourism. I am also delighted that many American Airlines customers will get to experience the beauty of my home country this summer.
TNH: Is there the possibility of a United States to Greece route throughout the year with American Airlines?
PG: We are constantly evaluating our network to match customer demand, market conditions, and competitor movements. Throughout the pandemic, we've put an even higher priority on building a schedule based on what customers tell us they want and need. We are hearing from our customers they are looking forward to travelling again. We're looking forward to the summer and our return to Athens, and most importantly welcoming our customers back safely.