Dutch scheduled and charter airline Transavia has become the first non-Greek airline to operate a domestic schedule in Greece, following a change in the rules by the Greek aviation authorities in line with European Union (EU) rules.

Transavia, which has built up a strong following in Greece over many years, will operate twice-weekly between the islands of Crete and Rhodes over the winter period up to the end of March 1999. The Monday flights operate from Amsterdam to Rhodes and on to Heraklion, before returning to Amsterdam, while the Thursday service operates in the reverse direction.

The service will stop at the start of the next summer season, when Transavia will begin a year-round Amsterdam-Rhodes-Amsterdam schedule.

Far from being dismayed by this incursion into the domestic market, local Cretan carrier Air Greece welcomes the initiative. Air Greece's president and major shareholder, Kostas Badouvas, views this as an opportunity and a positive move towards increasing winter tourist traffic, and is co-operating with the airline.

Air Greece flies three ATR 72-200s over the Heraklion-Athens-Rhodes route and the Transavia connection enables the airline to offer passengers the chance to fly twice-weekly direct between Rhodes and Heraklion, he says. In return, Transavia passengers will have the opportunity to take an Air Greece flight to Athens from either island destination. Although Badouvas expects little direct benefit initially, he hopes that as traffic grows, he might be able to increase local feeder traffic to Amsterdam.

Badouvas does not believe that Transavia will be followed by an invasion force of other EU airlines. Experience shows that no airline can make money in Greece operating standalone services with aircraft in the Boeing 737 class or larger, he says, because the routes are too short and traffic too light. Airlines would have to step down to the Fokker 70/100 or Bombardier Canadair CRJ-700.

Source: Airline Business