Abu Dhabi International Airport welcomed the arrival of Aegean Airlines’ new service from Athens with a watery fanfare last month, with water cannons forming a triumphal arch over Aegean’s Airbus A320 after its touchdown.
The new route comes as Aegean, which was awarded the Skytrax award for best regional airline in Europe in 2013, celebrates its 15th anniversary.
Aegean Airlines now operates four flights per week to the UAE capital, departing Athens at 7.00 pm local time, and arriving Abu Dhabi at 12.30am. For the return, Aegean’s flight departs Abu Dhabi at 2.00 am local time, arriving in the Greek capital at 6.00 am.
The new service – which expands long-haul connection options to Greece – comes after the introduction of codeshare agreement signed with Abu Dhabi-based Etihad Airways. The agreement means the Greek carrier can now add its ‘A3’ code to Etihad’s flights to Sydney, Melbourne and Perth, and in a reciprocal arrangement, Etihad can add its ‘EY’ code to Aegean’s flights from Athens to 16 European destinations.
Dimitris Gerogiannis, Aegean’s CEO, said the airline’s decision to enhance its presence in the Gulf through the Etihad partnership enabled it, as Greece’s
largest commercial carrier, to offer more connection options.
Mr Gerogiannis said he was “confident Greek tourism and businesses will benefit significantly from this development, as will Abu Dhabi, the capital of the UAE and one of the world’s leading business and tourism destinations”.
Coincidentally Etihad is also celebrating a Greek milestone, with 2014 marking five years of non-stop services between Athens and the Emirates’ capital. Since 2009 the UAE’s national airline has carried almost 400,000 passengers and 3,700 tonnes of cargo on the route, and recently, due to rising demand, the airline has increased its daily Athens-Abu Dhabi services to 10 per week.
Peter Baumgartner, Etihad Airways’ chief commercial officer, said that year on year, Etihad’s Athens route had exceeded the airline’s expectations.
“We are delighted to build on this success by adding more capacity to and from Greece, and officially mark our codeshare partnership here in Athens with Aegean Airlines, Greece’s largest commercial airline.” Meanwhile the implications of the codeshare agreement point not just to advantages for the two airlines and their customers. Alexandros Aravanis, Athens International Airport Chief Operations Officer, said the codeshare agreement reflected the continuing dynamic development of the Middle East market.
“This significant collaboration offers more options on the Athens-Abu Dhabi route while also enhancing connectivity out of Athens to destinations beyond Abu Dhabi to Asia, the Far East and Australia.”
With passenger traffic through Athens International Airport in the first five months of 2014 increasing by over 17 per cent (compared to the same period last year) and foreign visitor arrivals increasing by 35 per cent, the latest figures reflect a significant upturn.
The positive trend has been attributed to the stabilisation of the Greek economy, the strengthening of Athens’ attractiveness as a destination, and increases in seat capacity offered by airlines for the summer flight schedule.