Athens passengers up by 10% versus 2019; added many new airlines; Wizz Air now third-largest carrier

Jet2 Athens

Athens is among Europe’s fastest-growing airports, based on traffic growth since 2019. It welcomed 24.4 million passengers in the 10 months to October 2023. Traffic grew by an astonishing 9.6% to the highest volume ever. And it has not slowed down. In October, passengers rose by 18.8% versus four years ago.

Athens passengers

Why has it grown so much?

Using Cirium schedules information data to compare the Greek capital’s airline portfolio in January-October 2023 versus 2019 reveals why it has recovered so well. It has welcomed many new carriers, among them Arkia (November 2019), Ethiopian Airlines (December 2019), Blue Bird (September 2020, Jet2 (April 2022), TUS Airways (May 2022), Korean Air (May 2023), Kuwait Airways (June 2023) and PLAY (June 2023).

They offset those that no longer serve the airport, including Aeroflot, ASL Airlines, Astra Airlines, Blue Air, Ellinair, Finnair, Oman Air and Ukraine International. Some are defunct and some others cannot operate due to the war.

Many incumbents increased capacity. When Aegean and subsidiary Olympic are combined, available seats in these 10 months rose by 6%. Fellow Greek carrier Sky Express grew by 245% in Athens.

Elsewhere, particularly notable increases versus January-October 2019 were registered by United Airlines (+228%), Wizz Air (+172%), Delta Air Lines (+117%), Cyprus Airways (+58%), Brussels Airlines (+47%), Bulgaria Air (+51%), Air Canada (+38%), EgyptAir (+34%) and American Airlines (+27%). The main surprise is that Ryanair is now 40% smaller than what it was.

PLAY begins Athens

Athens International Airport

W23 seats are up by 21%

While Athens is, like the country generally, particularly known as a summer market, W23 capacity has risen by more than a fifth versus W19. Aegean itself accounts for nearly half of available seats on a 92-strong network, based on having at least four departures. Recently started routes that will fully or partly operate this winter include:

  • 11 November: Dubai (6-weekly)
  • 3 November: Chisinau (2)
  • 13 October: Sharm El Sheikh (2)
  • 29 September: Baku (2)
  • 14 September: Bratislava (2)
  • 14 June: Newcastle (2)
  • 18 May: Riga (2)
  • 31 March: Birmingham (2)
  • 31 March: Bristol (2)

Top 10 Athens Airlines

Wizz Air has jumped to third place

Among the biggest changes is that Ryanair been overtaken by the Wizz Air Group as Athens’ third-largest operator, at least by seat capacity. Wizz Air’s larger-gauge aircraft means that Ryanair is still first by flights.

Wizz Air’s winter network comprises 11 destinations. The most recent route to be introduced was Tirana on 13 December 2022. It started at 3-weekly and is already daily, joining Larnaca with that frequency in January.

Thessaloniki remains Athens’ top destination

Not surprisingly, Greece’s second most populous city, Thessaloniki, has more Athens capacity than any other destination this winter. One of four domestic markets in the top 10, it is served 115-weekly in January: 73 are by Aegean and 42 by Sky Express. It would be number one even if city-pairs were considered instead.

The leading international destination is Larnaca in Greek-speaking Cyprus. It has 77-weekly flights by Aegean (40), Sky Express (21), Wizz Air (7), Cyprus Airways (6) and Gulf Air (3). The latter operates on a fifth freedom basis en route back to Bahrain.

Top 10 Athens destinations

Birmingham Airport