With less than 72 hours before launch, the Marfin Investment Group officially announced that starting September 29, 2009 it would welcome all passengers with (ex) Olympic Airlines tickets on board the new Olympic Air for destinations still being served, or book them at no extra cost with a different airline if the route has been abandoned. Customers can also opt for a full refund.
Marfin also announced that Olympic Air would be commencing operations on September 29, not October 1, 2009. Olympic Airlines started parking its planes in Athens for the last time on Monday. Anyone traveling during the changeover should expect disruptions in service.
Those with tickets for destinations still being flown by the new Olympic Air may have had their flight itineraries changed. It is highly recommended to check the new schedule or confirm in advance, especially if you have a connecting flight, hotel/cruise/taxi bookings or package tours that will be impacted. See “Olympic Air Schedule Sept 29-Oct 24 or visit their new website in Greek and English, launched September 23, at: www.olympicair.com
Before Saturday’s announcement, up to 3,000 Olympic Airlines passengers were left for weeks in limbo over flights they were allowed to book on terminated routes after September 29. Others were faced with cancellations and altered flight times that no longer suited their travel plans.
*Article last updated September 28, 2009.
Photo from Athens News Agency
Routes abandoned by the new Olympic Air
On September 15 at 11:00, the Marfin Investment Group released the new Olympic Air’s start-up schedule, which runs September 29 to October 24; it was republished on Athens Airport Aviation News at 22:32. The following routes have been abandoned and are NOT on their schedule:
– Thessaloniki-Rhodes (direct flight)
– From Athens to :
New York, Montreal/Toronto, Johannesburg, Kuwait/Dubai, Madrid, Manchester, Frankfurt, Munich, Dusseldorf, Stuttgart, Berlin, Moscow
What does this mean? It means that anyone holding a ticket for these destinations with the old Olympic Airlines will not be boarding a flight home on the new Olympic Air but will be booked on a different airline at no extra cost or receive a full refund.
Winter schedules starting October 25 will be announced.
* Huge hat tip to EllasDevil who contributed greatly by leaving comments with the relevant links.
It is important to understand that this changeover is not a transfer. Please use the information below according to the dates I’ve listed.
1st km Varis Koropiou & Ifaistou St.
194 00 Koropi
Tel: 801 801 01 01 (from a local land line within Greece)
Tel: +30 (210) 355-0500 (from a cell/mobile within Greece or any phone from outside Greece)
ATHENS ELEFTHERIOS VENIZELOS AIRPORT
Tel: +30 (210) 353-0000
MARFIN INVESTMENT GROUP HOLDINGS S.A.
146 71 Nea Erythrea
Tel: +30 (210) 35 04 000
OLYMPIC AIRLINES S.A. (only until September 28, 2009)
Tel: +30 (210) 356-8447 (at Athens Eleftherios Venizelos Airport)
Fax: +30 (210) 966-6244
Other locations: “List of Olympic Airlines Offices worldwide, hours of operation, phone/fax numbers” (link broken)
Tel: 801 11 44444 (Sales/reservations, toll-free within Greece)
Tel: +30 (210) 966-6666 (Sales/reservations)
Original article (*for reference only*)
Between 1,500 to 3,000 Olympic Airlines passengers are in limbo over return flights booked after September 29, the date on which the airline will cease operation and many routes terminate.
Development Minister Kostis Hatzidakis stated in March that “flights will continue to operate normally,” after the Greek government sold Olympic Airlines to the Dubai-backed Marfin Investment Group in a privatization deal worth €177.2 million.
However, passengers are affected because the changeover involves a complete restructuring, including the reallocation of 11 routes to South Africa, Canada, Albania, Kuwait, Egypt, Israel, Lebanon, Russia, Serbia, UAE and Turkey, which Olympic Airlines can no longer monopolize; and abandoning outdated aircraft with questionable maintenance records in favor of a modern fleet of Airbus A320s and Bombardier Q400s, five of which are fuel-efficient and low-emission NextGen airliners.
Marfin also aims to turn unprofitable year-round routes, such as Athens-JFK and Athens-Toronto, into code-shares or seasonal flights that run April-October. Despite a strong Greek diaspora, Olympic Airlines tied for second worst passenger load performance of 33 European airlines at 51.2 percent capacity in the first half of 2009. The Association of European Airlines (AEA) called July airline traffic “a desperate situation,” especially in high season when airlines at 81.8 percent capacity are not making money.
These stats contradict what Icarus frequent flyer members reported, saying they could not reach an Olympic representative to book an award flight — though 50 extra staff were hired to assist during the transition — or were told that there was no seat availability until September 24, a mere six days before program terminates forever. Members were notified in May to spend miles or lose them.
On September 17, Marfin’s new Olympic Air announced a code-share to New York with Delta starting October 1. However, this does not mean that JFK customers are necessarily returning on Delta; official word must come from the current Olympic Airlines. To date, there has been no firm announcement by Olympic Airlines regarding if and how passengers will be accommodated on return flights after September 30. Travel agents, passengers and media alike have been unsuccessful in getting a definitive answer.
OA’s last press release was published on its website October 1, 2008. Photos of singer Sakis Rouvas boarding a flight to Moscow for Eurovision 2009 and posing with a pilot’s hat were posted May 2009. I think that says it all.
Who is Responsible?
One could argue that the current Olympic Airlines and Greek government are responsible because they were happy to take passengers’ money without properly informing them of the risks and uncertainty surrounding flights returning after September 30. Perhaps they think they can sweep it under the rug because it won’t be their problem.
Another could argue that it depends on the deal struck between Olympic Airlines and Marfin’s Olympic Air.
Regardless, none of this should come as a surprise to anyone who knows the way Greece works or has flown Olympic Airlines on a previous occasion. See my “10 Tips for flying Olympic Airlines.” Consistency in transparency, customer service, safety and quality are long-standing issues.
1. Contact Olympic first: Press them for an answer in person or by phone, if they answer. Contact info is provided at the bottom of this article.
2. Involve Your Travel Agent: Depending on the conditions under which your ticket was purchased, a travel agent may be able to cancel the return leg and rebook you on a different airline. Popular travel websites (Orbitz, Travelocity, etc.) also have leverage, and filing a protest with credit card companies may be an option.
3. Consult Your Travel Insurance Policy: Some travel insurance policies offer compensation.
4. Educate Yourself with BBC’s “Q&A: New Passenger’s Rights,” which gives a brief overview of a European Commission regulation passed February 17, 2005. It applies to you, regardless of nationality.
5. Invoke Your Rights with Passenger/Consumer Advocates
a) European Commission Transport
— Learn about EC Regulation 261/2004, which establishes the rights of all air passengers flying within the EU
— Make contact with the EC
— Download a complaint form to file with the National Enforcement Body (NEB) in Greece, which is:
Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority
Vas. Georgiou 1
Tel: +30 (210) 891-6000
Fax: +30 (210) 894-7101
website : www.hcaa.gr
Email : firstname.lastname@example.org
b) Civil Aviation Authority for flights originally booked in the UK.
c) European Consumer Centre Network made up of 28 countries, including Greece, and offers support for consumers across the EU.
— Fill out the online Complaint Form
— Call the Consumer Hotline at ‘1520’ (within Greece; line open M-F 8:00-20:00, Sa 8:30-20:00)
— Contact the local office in Athens:
Ευρωπαϊκή Κέντρο Καταναλωτή
c/o Hellenic Ministry of Development
Director: Ioanna Haralabopoúlou
GR 10 181 Athens
Tel: +30 (210) 330-5062
Fax: +30 (210) 382-9640
website: www.eccefpolis.gr (blank)
Correct website is: www.efpolis.gr
d) Greek National Tourist Organization or EOT
— Register a complaint by calling ‘1572’, via email or use their Complaint Form.
“Final landing for Olympic Airlines” — Eleftherotypia
“OA flights to JFK grounded after 43 years” — eKathimerini
“First OA flight in Thessaloniki inaugurated” — eKathimerini
“Olympic Air launches with 24 aircraft and 10 international routes” – Airlines Network News & Analysis
“Olympic successor takes over Tuesday” — AFP
“Olympic Airlines lands” — Eleftherotypia
“Olympic Air cuts 54 routes” — Ta Nea
“1500 Expatriate Olympic passengers up in air” (link broken) — Voice of Greece
“Olympic Air ends JFK service” — Airliners.net
“Cards and Privileges” (removed) – OA Icarus Program
“Kuwait’s Alafco leases 2 Airbus A320 to Olympic Air” — Reuters
“Olympic Airlines pilots get perks funded by Greek taxpayers” — Capital.gr
“Aegean Air bids for subsidized routes in Greece” — Reuters
“AEA passenger load numbers down 9.0 percent for first half of 2009” — Airline News & Analysis
“AEA: European July airline traffic a ‘desperate situation'”(removed) — Wall Street Journal
“Bombardier signs airline for five Q400 NextGen airliners” — Reuters
“Press Release: Eight new Bombadier aircraft Q400, worth 224 million, for Olympic Air” — Marfin Investment Group
“Olympic Airlines to be sold by September” — AFP (Times of India)
“National Enforcement Bodies according to Regulation [EC] 261/2004 from 17 February 2005″ (removed) — European Commission Transport Section
“Clearance for Olympic deal to take off” — Kathimerini
Please note that I do not have further information or answers at this time. Everything I know and was able to investigate is listed above.
Photo from the OA website’s News and Events