After extreme protectionism for the Greek national carrier, the walls come tumbling down. The latest business plan, approved by the European Commission last July, will change the Greek aviation environment forever. That is, of course, if this plan succeeds where the last effort failed through what managing director Theodore Tsakiridis calls "internal dysfunction".

This latest move has a far better chance of succeeding as, perhaps for the first time, the Greek Government openly accepts that there can be no recurrence of previous failures if the airline is to survive.

The plan includes the usual elements necessary to build a strong business, such as better cost and yield management, but central to the new business plan are the search for a strategic partner and the move to the new Athens airport at Spata in March 2001.

Minister of Transport Stassos Mandelis stresses the importance of finding an alliance partner for Olympic, pointing out that the airline is one of the few medium-sized national carriers in Europe not linked into the global aviation picture. But Tsakiridis says that "a strategic alliance cannot be achieved under state ownership". While the government is planning to relinquish some of its holding as a first step, Tsakiridis believes that only full privatisation will do.

Even if he gets his way, Olympic is still faced with enormous tasks. It has already halved management levels, cut unprofitable routes, introduced a frequent flier programme "Icarus" and has embarked on a fleet renewal. But getting back into profit will be a bigger challenge and plans to reduce staff levels, freeze pay for three years and change working practices will not be as easy.

With the imminent loss of its ground handling monopoly, which produces a large part of its income, Olympic will have to plug the gap. It will also face new competition at home and will have to improve its service standards drastically.

Tsakiridis and his paymasters are determined that all these measures will go through. Such words have been heard before from various Olympic heads. This time, there is no real alternative.

Source: Airline Business