This month Airline Business was in Athens to talk to Antonis Simigdalas about Olympic Air, the project aimed at re-invigorating the Olympic name after years of losses. The new carrier, which in contrast to its debt-ridden predecessor, is privately owned (by Greek investment firm Marfin) and launched flights as a slimmed-down successor at the end of September.
It is a remarkable turn of events, given that Simigdalas was at the heart of efforts to end Olympic’s monopoly position a decade before with Aegean Airlines. The latter was one of a number of private carriers to spring up in 1999 to take advantage of the opening of the Greek domestic market, and Aegean – which was led by Simigdalas – stayed the course and has been growing ever since. Indeed with a fleet renewal and stock market listing in the bag and Star Alliance membership on the way, Aegean had overtaken Olympic in domestic market share at the time of new Olympic’s launch.
You can read the full interview here, in which Simigdalas explains why he got involved in the Olympic project and why he and Marfin couldn’t let the Olympic name go. It turned out to be a particularly interesting time to look at Greece, given the debt problems surrounding the Greek public finances and breaking news of potential co-operation between Aegean and Olympic. This news broke shortly after the interview went to press (I hate it when that happens!!!), so its a case of watch this space.
It’s also worth checking out the article for a fantastic photo for the opening spread from Tom Gordon at Billypix. It was taken in the vast Olympic maintenance hangar and is one of my favourite photos from the magazine over the last year. Tom also took the photo above, complete with an old Olympic Airlines aircraft in the background for measure (we wanted one of the new ones, but they were all flying – which must be a good sign!!!).