Julian Moxon/PARIS

Olympic Airways, struggling with financial and management problems, is considering deferring delivery of eight new Boeing 737-800s for up to a year.

The Greek flag carrier, which remains 100% government-owned, says the decision on whether to delay delivery "must await the arrival of a new consulting team in April".

Airline sources point to Olympic's precarious finances and falling passenger load factors as evidence that it cannot afford to take the aircraft as planned early next year. A delay may lead to a rethink of the entire order, says one source.

The airline's new management, headed by chairman George Zygoyiannis, took over a month ago following the sudden departure of chief executive Theordorus Tsakiridis, the latest in a line of bosses to leave the airline.

Losses of Dr39 billion ($137 million) in 1997 and further expected losses of about half that in 1998 have undermined the airline's financial stability, even though it has received large amounts of state aid in recent years. Officially, Olympic insists that it intends to take delivery of the remaining two Airbus A340-300s this year.

The pilots' union is also fighting a prolonged battle with the airline over productivity, with an agreement seen as essential before the new short- to medium-range aircraft can be accepted.

The Greek Government has called for bids from foreign carriers interested in helping to manage Olympic. British Airways' Speedwing consultancy and Lufthansa Consulting having replied so far. A decision on the winning bid is set for 20 March.

Source: Flight International