ATHENS – Reaching out for a state bailout after service was drastically curtailed during the COVID-19 lockdown and hurting so bad refunds were denied customers offered vouchers instead, Aegean Airlines has stepped up international flights.
Despite the complaints over violating European Union law by refusing refunds, the airline reported an increase in passengers that officials said were marginally satisfactory, reported Kathimerini.
The national flag carrier on June 15, when the international airports in Athens and Greece's second-largest city of Thessaloniki opened, flew passengers from 13 destinations to Athens, plus two to Thessaloniki, with the network including flights from Larnaca, Zurich, Brussels, Amsterdam, Dusseldorf, Bucharest, Tirana and Munich.
Market professionals note that seat occupancy rates vary depending on whether the flight had been stopped altogether or not, with the Athens-Brussels service continuing throughout the lockdown, reported Kathimerini.
Airlines are frantically hoping that late bookings will pick up as well and that people won't be afraid to fly or travel although a full resumption of tourism and the opening of Greece's other airports won't begin until July 1 in a bid to salvage the summer season.
The New Democracy government is trying to assure travelers that Greece is a safe destination and ordered health protocols for hotels and other facilities serving tourists although similar measures across the country are widely being defied.
The next stage for the resumption of international flights includes the connection of destinations abroad with regional airports with Aegean making plans for its hubs in . Iraklio and Hania in Crete and Rhodes, among others.
By July 15 it is expected to serve 42 destinations abroad out of Athens and at least seven foreign destinations out of Thessaloniki, officials said, the newspaper added.
Aegean kept 31 domestic destinations open during the pandemic and lockdown and officials estimated that by July 15 it will perform about 1,000 flights per week, which by end-August will climb to 1,600 by then.