“Since the first day of Aegean’s operations, we have been pursuing our vision for innovative, high quality services, through significant investments,” says Vassilakis. “The relative size of our competitors within the European Union necessitates the joining of the two main Greek airlines, to achieve increased autonomy in serving the needs of our country’s tourism, increase route options for consumers, ensure the long-term development and viability of the two airlines and protect the levels of employment in the sector.”
Comments Vgenopoulos: “The prevailing conditions in the Greek economy as well as in the aviation sector dictate the combination of forces in order to maintain competitive customer prices, protect levels of employment and increase our competitiveness at a European level. The merger of Olympic with Aegan serves all of those objectives and at the same time preserves and strengthens the Olympic brand name, an inherent piece of our national tradition making all Greeks very proud.”
Aegean Airlines now operates a fleet of four Airbus A321-200s; 18 A320s; four Boeing 737-400s (which are in the process of being returned to the leasing companies that own them); and six Avro RJ100s. Olympic Air, formed in March 2009 without the debts of predecessor Olympic Aviation, operates nine leased A320s; eight A319s; 10 Bombardier Q400 turboprops; and five Bombardier Dash 8-100 turboprops.
In terms of staff numbers, Aegean Airlines employs 2,500 people while Olympic Air itself employs 1,300. Olympic Handling employs some 2,000 people and Olympic Engineering 50. Aegean and Olympic have not yet said whether all the companies’ respective staff members would be retained.
Nor has either company indicated whether the proposed merger would delay or forfeit Aegean’s planned entry into the Star Alliance in June. In September, Olympic Air chairman Vgenopoulos said at a press conference that the new carrier planned to join the SkyTeam alliance (led by Delta Air Lines and Air France-KLM) at an unspecified future date.
Aegean Airlines operates 26 international routes (mainly from Athens, but some also from Thessaloniki) and 24 domestic routes. Olympic Air operates 15 international routes and 26 domestic routes. Many of each carrier’s domestic routes are state-subsidized routes from Athens and Thessaloniki to Greek islands in the Aegean, Ionian and Mediterranean seas.
The two airlines say that, if the merger is given the EU’s blessing, the new airline would ensure “the creation of a national airline champion with enlarged presence in the European market as well as seamless coverage of even the most remote islands of our country”.