Greek airline executives are voicing concerns that their businesses will suffer, particularly as the Olympic Games approaches, while Athens continues to lag in its attempts to upgrade from a Category 2 to a Category 1 safety rating under the US Federal Aviation Administration's International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) programme.

Air transport industry executives in Athens are predicting that the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) will fail to achieve Category 1 rating - full compliance with the International Civil Aviation Organisation's minimum safety oversight standards - in time for the Games, and that this will hamstring the nation's two main airlines, state-owned Olympic Airlines and privately owned Aegean Airlines.

Speaking at the 8-9 December first aviation safety conference of the recently formed Hellenic Air Accident and Aviation Safety Board (AAIASB) in Athens, the head of the HCAA flight standards department Antonis Koutsoudakis admitted that the authority "has to cover lost ground and catch up with the rest of Europe to provide a European environment for all carriers operating from Greece". European Joint Aviation Authorities chief executive Klaus Koplin, also speaking at the conference, concurred, saying that the HCAA "has not developed fully into the system that everybody else is operating". Koplin explains that, in February 2004, the JAA will be visiting the HCAA to monitor progress towards European Aviation Safety Agency oversight standards, which so far "has been positive, but a very slow incline".

Aegean's chief operating officer Antonis Simigdalas says one effect on Greek airlines of IASA Category 2 status would be to prevent them from codesharing with European airlines in the Star and Oneworld alliances because United Airlines and American Airlines respectively are leading carriers in the groupings.

Category 2 status means Olympic is barred from adding services to the USA.

Source: Flight International