Greek flag carrier's efforts to boost US capacity in 2004 could be scuppered by FAA ruling

Nascent Greek flag carrier Olympic Airlines' intention to add capacity to US destinations in the run-up to the 2004 Olympic Games looks likely to be hampered by Greece's expected poor showing in a safety oversight system audit. At present the country is rated Category 2 under the US Federal Aviation Administration's International Aviation Safety Assessment (IASA) system, but following improvements and an FAA re-audit, it was hoping for Category 1 before the Olympics.

IASA auditors are rechecking Greece's airport safety improvements and security measures. Industry sources say the FAA will confirm the nation's safety oversight system as Category 2 after the audits, despite Greece's efforts to improve. Any increase of services to the USA is banned under Category 2 rules, but use of wet-leased aircraft from Category 1 countries is allowed.

Current carrier Olympic Airways is to be transformed into an aviation services company under plans to launch Olympic Airlines in December, and privatised within 12 months. So far only two routes from Athens - to New York Kennedy and Johannesburg, South Africa - have the potential for extra capacity before the games. It adds, however, that any route expansion is a matter for the new airline. "We're trying to maintain a network to the USA and if we couldn't fly to the USA that would somewhat affect our masterplan," it says.

Olympic Airways adds that route expansion is a matter between the two aviation safety agencies, and would not affect its new ground operations, as its new maintenance centre has separate FAA approval.

Greek regional carrier Aegean Airlines says: "It is frustrating when the civil aviation authority is not up to the same standard as we are."

The FAA rates Category 1 those countries whose civil aviation authority complies with International Civil Aviation Organisation standards, and Category 2 those it believes not to do so.

Source: Flight International