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John Stathatos


Earlier this year, Athens Airways, a tiny domestic airline essentially run as a hobby by a successful rubbish-bin manufacturer, acquired the contract to fly the Athens-Kythera line, as well as eight other supposedly subsidised island routes. This was a disaster for the island, since the reason the airline was awarded the contract was that they offered to flye a subsidised route for zero subsidy. Why was that disastrous? Quite simply, because once the company went out of business, or its owner found another hobby, the Greek ministry of transport could argue that the route had been shown not to require subsidy – which in turn would make it a certainty that no carrier would willing to serve the island, at least not in the off-season.

In addition, Athens Airways proved unreliable, with unexplained delays becoming the rule rather than the exception, while the aircraft used on the Kythera route were usually old, run-down models on short-term charter from various obscure East European companies. To say nothing of the fact that for months, attempts at booking tickets, or even finding out whether any flights operated between Athens and Kythera, were frustrated by the simple fact that Athens Airways hadn’t bothered to join the international airline ticket booking service.

For all these reasons, Greece’s Civil Aviation Authority suddenly pounced on May 27th, rescinding the company’s contract to fly the subsidised routes. As it turned out, Athens Airways had ignored several formal warnings, and suffered a number of fines before the ultimate sanction was applied.

The good news is that Olympic Air, the original under-bidder, is to take over the route as of June 1st. There will probably be some confusion for a few days, and the flight times will almost certainly be different, but it looks as though nobody will lose either their money or their reservations.

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John Stathatos
on 03.06.2010

Now confirmed: 1. If you made a prior booking with Athens Air via a travel agent, you will get a refund from the agent. 2. If you made a prior booking with Athens Air over the internet, you will get a refund on the credit card account used. 3. Reservations will not carry over; you must book all over again with Olympic.