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General News

Consul General in Boston Speaks to TNH about Boston-Athens Flights

October 22, 2021

BOSTON – The news of the establishment of a direct flight between Athens and Boston by Delta Air Lines as of May 2022 was met with relief by the Greek-American community of Boston and New England, as it puts an end to the ordeal of traveling to Greece via Europe, Canada, or New York.

The Consul General of Greece in Boston, Stratos Efthymiou, played a decisive role in this very positive development and in an interview with The National Herald he revealed the tremendous effort invested in this three-year process.

Efthymiou stressed that “after 22 years, the direct Boston-Athens flight is very joyful news for the entire Greek community in New England. It will attract high-income and highly educated tourists to Greece, it will facilitate the reunification of families, it makes it easier for the Greek Omogenia to remain in contact with the homeland, and it will foster educational, cultural and business exchanges.”

Whether it was expected or came as a surprise given the ongoing pandemic, he said that, “the truth is that the pandemic interrupted the momentum that had been created and made the project very difficult. Border closures and quarantine policies led to the collapse of air travel. The pandemic, however, also highlighted the importance of point-to-point flights since traveling directly means that the passenger spends fewer hours in busy airports and planes and arrives straight at their destination while eschewing additional checks and bureaucratic formalities.”

The Consul General of Greece in Boston with Massachusetts Governor Charlie Baker at The Annual General Meeting & World Air Transport Summit recently in Boston. (Photo: Courtesy of Stratos Efthymiou)

He also noted that, “the recovery of the airline industry and rising vaccination rates reversed the situation while Greece’s successful summer in terms of tourism contributed significantly to the project’s success. An additional boost was the Greek government’s very early announcement, in March 2021, that it would be opening its borders to Americans and other tourists on May 14, which led to the success of flight routes from other American cities that either have larger populations than Boston or function as air hubs. ”

Efthymiou explained that, “the effort started in 2018 when we began to form the working group at the Consulate General that would promote the project. Greek-Americans Marina Hatsopoulos and Nick Mitropoulos were a part of this initiative since the very beginning. Along the way, Katerina Makatouni helped with market research and Stefania Orphanos, who used to work at Olympic Airlines, helped with getting in touch with travel agents. The key to continuing was the statistical data provided by Giorgos Zacharia, current president of Kayak, a company that specializes in travel-related internet searches. This data showed that sufficient traffic exists and hence a seasonal flight three times a week would be commercially viable.”

What followed in October 2018, Efthymiou said, “was a meeting at the Boston airport with Tom Glynn (who had collaborated with Governor Dukakis in the past) and then-CEO of Massport, along with airport executives. An airport committee was then set up jointly with bodies such as the Massachusetts Office of International Trade and Investment, the Greater Boston Convention & Visitors Bureau, and the Massachusetts Office of Travel & Tourism, which met monthly until the pandemic broke out. The Consulate General’s working group then conducted a marketing survey in December 2018 which received responses from three and a half thousand expatriates over the period of four days between Christmas and New Year! Such was the longing of the Greek Diaspora.”

The project was supported by Governor Charlie Baker, who met with the working group, Metropolitan Methodios of Boston, Massport President Lew Evangelidis, and current Massport CEO Lisa Wieland.

“In December 2019,” he  then Minister of Tourism Mr. Theoharis visited Boston where he met with airport and tourism officials, expressing the government’s support at the highest level.”

He added that, “for a year we were collecting advice and statistical data, while working with and talking to agencies that could help. We subsequently brought the Boston airport in direct contact with Ioanna Papadopoulou, Communications and Marketing Director of Eleftherios Venizelos Airport. I must make it clear that at this stage we did not directly survey any airline companies. This was done through the airport’s Massport development office, which communicated both with American and European companies. Initially, two companies showed interest, although not to operate immediately, but rather in the medium term.”

From the meeting at the Consulate General of Greece in Boston in January 2019. (Photo: Courtesy of Stratos Efthymiou)

Asked how Delta finally made their decision, he said that, “the very successful summer in terms of tourism was undoubtedly the most decisive factor. Another significant factor is Delta’s upgrade of its position in Boston, which is turning into a small regional hub for the company. The State of Massachusetts and the management of the airport here, after our continued collaboration, had also placed the direct flight to Athens high on the list of priorities and thus promoted it. Last April, the former Minister of Tourism Mr. Theoharis, who visited Delta at their offices, along with the Consulate General’s working group, that contacted the company two weeks later, presented the statistical data that would justify a Boston-Athens flight.”

The data they had available indicated that before the pandemic Athens was the largest indirectly served international destination from Boston, attracting 68,000 travelers. “In 2018 Boston was respectively the second largest indirectly served international destination from Athens. The company did not include Athens in its destinations from Boston in April, but today, after the successful summer for Greek tourism, they considered all the aforementioned data and decided to establish the Boston-Athens flight,” he said.

Also, according to Efthymiou, “Greek-Americans and travelers from Greece constitute 23% of the passengers who make the Boston-Athens trip. Support from the Greek community will be key as to whether or not the flight will remain operational in the coming years and whether its schedule will be extended to several times a week and to all year round. The data, indeed, shows that the operation of a direct flight increases passenger traffic by an average of 46% in the medium term and all forecasts regarding Greece’s 2022 tourism performance appear optimistic.”

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