Athens shows its resilience
The traffic recovery is firmly on track in Athens, proving the resilience and attractiveness of the local market. “We are lucky to have experienced a fast and strong traffic recovery this summer, with 60% of 2019 passenger traffic returning,” explains Leonidas Raftopoulos, Senior Developer, Airline Development at Athens Airport.
The airport handled over five million passengers during the three-month peak summer season, adding to the 1.5 million travellers which had used Greece’s busiest airport between January and May. “These impressive traffic figures at Athens pave the way for a strong recovery. Total passengers at the end of September 2021 reached 8.5 million, meaning that Athens has already surpassed 2020’s full-year passenger traffic,” adds Raftopoulos.
Looking at the traffic handled during the peak summer months on a more granular level, international traffic grew by +139%, while domestic throughput rose by +73% versus 2020. When comparing this year’s traffic to 2019, domestic traffic hit 70% of 2019 levels, with international reaching 53% of the volumes achieved two years ago. “In terms of aircraft movements, recovery volumes for the June to August period are even stronger, with domestic flights at +56% versus 2020 levels [-17% versus 2019] and with international at +125% versus 2020 [-23% versus 2019],” says Raftopoulos.
Two new US points
Despite the unprecedented aviation crisis, Athens has achieved significant route development including the addition of two new US destinations, namely Atlanta with Delta Air Lines and Washington Dulles with United Airlines. “Along with American Airlines’ new service to New York JFK, Athens now offers nine daily US connections – a first for Greece and Athens,” enthuses Raftopoulos.
In addition to the long-haul growth, home-based Sky Express has entered the international market, adding city pairs to Larnaca, Paris CDG, Brussels, London Heathrow and Rome Fiumicino, plus new domestic services to Thessaloniki and Rhodes. “Wizz Air Abu Dhabi selected Athens as its first European destination, Blue Air has introduced Bacau, a new Romanian destination, and offered new capacity to Bucharest, while LOT Polish Airlines has enhanced its Athens offering with a Katowice service, adding to its existing Warsaw route.”
This route growth means that between June to August 2021, Athens’ network has to a large extent been rebuilt, with the airport offering non-stop services to 49 countries and 142 airports, served by 59 airlines. “Compared to the same period in 2019, Athens has reconnected 90% of its network and airlines.” Moving into 2022, the prospects look positive too. “The upcoming 2021-22 season appears to be extremely encouraging for the re-establishment of services to Athens,” concludes Raftopoulos.