BOSTON – Restoring direct flights from Boston – home to a big Diaspora community – and Athens has already proved a big hit with tickets being snapped up and flights filling, to the joy of people who had to make connections for years.
In a feature, Kathimerini noted the popularity of the flights to and from Boston, one of the United States’ biggest most influential areas for the Greek-American community for generations.
“For years, the traveling to Greece with the kids for the summer holidays meant a great deal of stress about the flight, which took 17 hours at best and 25 hours at worst due to the stopover,” Katerina Makatouni told the newspaper, noting how tough it was for children especially.
“On the night-time flight from Boston to Athens, passengers can sleep through the night and get to Athens in time to catch their connections to all of the islands,” said Marina Hatsopoulos, a tech entrepreneur.
She and fellow Greek-Americans Nick Mitropoulos, Stephanie Orphanos and Makatouni – were part of a task force put together in 2018 by the former Greek Consul-General in Boston, Stratos Efthymiou, to lead the project to reconnect the two cities by air, the paper noted.
“The Diaspora had always been asking for a direct flight and it was one of the first issues that were brought to my attention at the start of my tenure,” said Efthymiou, who made it a priority for him.
Boston had been connected to Athens by Olympic Air, but the service stopped 25 years earlier even though Boston and the surrounding area has some 100,000 members in the Diaspora who were left out of direct flights.
Apart from those who maintain ties with their ancestral roots, many New Englanders also have business interests in Greece, the paper said, adding to the significance of being able to fly directly.
“From the start we wanted to ascertain whether a new flight would be of commercial interest to the airport but also to an airline,” Efthymiou told the newspaper of the plan.
The response was overwhelming for the need for the flights and the paper noted that Giorgos Zacharia, President of the travel site Kayak said there were as many clicks for “Boston-Athens” as there were for “Boston-Rome.”
The next step was carried out by Makatouni, a marketing expert, who organized a volunteer-run market survey and the leadership of the Athens International Airport became interested.
It was a happy coincidence, a real rallying of the Greek forces on both sides of the Atlantic,” Communications and Marketing Director Ioanna Papadopoulou, responsible for expanding air links between Athens and other cities said.
The Coronavirus pandemic that struck in 2020 put a big crimp in plans but when Greece partially reopened to tourists in 2021 it took hold again and with health restrictions essentially ended people are jumping on the flights.
Delta Airlines announced a direct flight between Boston and Athens, three times a week, from late May until the end of October.
“Tickets for this flight are selling like hotcakes because it is so much easier for travelers and only slightly more expensive,” Penny Hamourgas, a travel agent in Lowell, Massachusetts, with 35 years in the business told the paper.
“My estimate is that Delta will increase frequency once it sees the profits. This is the first time I have seen so much traffic for Greece, while we also have Americans making the flight who couldn’t even place the country on the map,” she added.