Big things expected from Athens’ ‘mini-expansion’

Bernie Baldwin

A ‘mini expansion’ is taking place at Athens International Airport. So says Ioanna Papadopoulou, ‘director of communications and marketing, as she discusses the latest infrastructure developments.

“The ‘South Wing Expansion’ (SWE) is a project that refers mainly to the expansion of the Main Terminal Building (MTB) – Extra Schengen area, through the creation of a five-level building of a total development of 15,000 m2,” Papadopoulou explains. “Upon completion of the project, it will mainly cover the increase of the immigration/emigration needs, triggered by the recent European Security Regulatory Framework, expanding at the same time the Extra Schengen check-in hall and the adjacent commercial areas. As a result of the MTB southwest expansion, lounges currently housed in the southwest end of the area, will be relocated at the two higher levels of the new building.

“Yet, more is to come,” she continues. “Following the recent (February 2019) extension of the Airport Development Agreement for 20 more years (2026–2046), a new development/construction horizon opened, aiming at mainly addressing present and future capacity requirements and enhancing the passenger’s airport experience. “Additionally, in 2017 we completed a full transformation of the existing non-Schengen (9,000 m2) and Schengen (15,000 m2) areas, focusing on functionality, services, and modern design through the synthesis of Greek classical and contemporary elements.

“The outcome was very well received by our passengers, and included the installation of two centralised security filter points,” Papadopoulou adds. “In the end, not only is the throughput faster, but passengers are offered a unique experience through cleverly designed routings inviting exploration.” Assessing the past year, Papadopoulou believes that 2019 has been a good year both for the airport and the aviation industry as a whole. On the latter, she notes, “Aviation consumers benefited from lower travel costs and additional routes, while airlines achieved healthy profitability and, in general, strong traffic rise.

“So far it has been a very good year for Athens International Airport; through continuing to offer high level services to airlines, passengers and the rest of our stakeholders, we have achieved positive results, both in terms of traffic and financially. To be specific, 2019 is the sixth consecutive year of growth for Athens Airport, following a record 2018 with 24.14 million passengers.

“Most importantly, the year was marked – as already stressed – by the developments regarding the 20-year extension of the airport’s concession term from 2026 to 2046, opening at the same time a significant window of new opportunities,” Papadopoulou emphasises. “In this respect, we continue our two-fold developmental strategy, offering one of the most comprehensive and innovative airline incentive schemes internationally, while focusing on promoting ‘Destination Athens’ through initiatives and synergies.”

Reaping the fruits of the infrastructure investment has seen a string of new routes and frequency enhancements, with even more is expected in 2020. “During summer 2019, our network welcomed a number of new services compared with a year ago. We now offer a total of 166 destinations, operated by 65 airlines, and we are working closely with our airline partners in order to further increase Athens’ connectivity,” Papadopoulou remarks. “At the same time, a significant extension of the tourist season is obvious, making ‘Destination Athens’ even more attractive and popular. For the coming summer season in 2020, Ethiopian’s historic comeback to Athens after 18 years stands out, directly connecting our city with Addis Ababa and the African continent as a whole,” she continues. “Of equal strategic importance will be Juneyao’s first arrival in Athens for a direct connection with Shanghai, a new destination for us.”

Other major highlights – so far – include new services by Ryanair (Barcelona, Madrid, Nuremberg, Toulouse), new additions by home-based Volotea (Cagliari, Lyon, Marseille, Split), Lille by TUIfly Belgium, Milan by Air Italy, Kuwait by Kuwait Airways, Vienna by Wizz Air and LaudaMotion, plus Paphos by Cyprus Airways.

“Our home carrier, Aegean Airlines, is also very active for the coming summer with significant capacity increases on routes to Frankfurt, Geneva, Kiev (KBP), Munich, Paris (CDG), Rome (FCO), and Tel Aviv,” Papadopoulou reports. “Moreover, Alitalia will reinstate Tel Aviv, and Norwegian, Qatar Airways, Air Europa and Blue Air will all increase their operations out of our airport.”

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