Living in Greece

A practical guide to moving, living, working & traveling in Greece, plus musing and misadventures from an American in Athens

Status of Olympic Airlines flights after September 29 now known

first Olympic Air flightWith 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:

Domestic:
– Athens-Syros
– Athens-Kozani/Kastoria
– Thessaloniki-Rhodes (direct flight)
– Thessaloniki-Hania
– Thessaloniki-Irakleio

International:
– Thessaloniki-Istanbul
– 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.

Contact Info

It is important to understand that this changeover is not a transfer. Please use the information below according to the dates I’ve listed.

OLYMPIC AIR
1st km Varis Koropiou & Ifaistou St.
194 00 Koropi
Greece
website: www.olympicair.com
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)
Email: customerservice@olympicair.com

ATHENS ELEFTHERIOS VENIZELOS AIRPORT
19019 Spata
Greece
Tel: +30 (210) 353-0000

MARFIN INVESTMENT GROUP HOLDINGS S.A.
www.marfininvestmentgroup.com
67 Thisseos
146 71 Nea Erythrea
Tel: +30 (210) 35 04 000

OLYMPIC AIRLINES S.A. (only until September 28, 2009)
www.olympicairlines.com
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)
Email: olympicairlines.telephone.sales@olympicairlines.gr

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.

Olympic Airlines Sakis

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.

Your Options

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
16604 Elliniko
Tel: +30 (210) 891-6000
Fax: +30 (210) 894-7101
website : www.hcaa.gr
Email : ypa@hcaa.gr

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
Kanigos Square
GR 10 181 Athens
Tel: +30 (210) 330-5062
Fax: +30 (210) 382-9640
Email: info@efpolis.gr
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.

Sources

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

Note

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

50 Comments

  FMS wrote @ September 14th, 2009 at 12:31

I stopped using Olympic years ago for exactly these reasons. Nothing is honest, nothing is reliable, nobody gives a **** about the customer…

In my opinion, if people are stupid enough to buy tickets under these conditions, then probably they expect to be abused. You would be surprised how many people buy Greek products for nationalistic reasons — my heart bleeds for their losses.

  EllasDevil wrote @ September 14th, 2009 at 21:51

I agree that they could / should be a little more forthcoming with information but you have to remember that Olympic Airlines are members of all the relevent authorities which protect passengers should their be any problem.

The Olympic Airlines website seems to still offer for sale tickets past October first but only to desinations that will still be served (e.g. London) but no flights available to destinations that will be discontinued (e.g. destinations within Germany).

As the Olympic Air website (www.olympicair.com) doesn’t yet offer the ability to book tickets and the fact that Olympic Air is keeping a lot of Olympic Airlines routes then one would assume that your booking is safe.

However for passengers who already have preconfirmed tickets for desinations that will not be served, one would assume they will be moved to different airlines.

Perhaps it’s a little premature to be printing out complaint forms. Perhaps you’ll fly on the new Olympic Air if you’re on one of the routes that are being kept or perhaps you’ll have accept being moved to an alternative carrier if you’re route has been discontinued.

I really don’t see anyone being left in a situation where they are told “ha ha, you booked with the old company so you’re now left high and dry”.

So I’d probably say it’s a case of watch this space.

As for Icarus miles… I cashed mine in earlier this year as I expected there to be no availability as we approached closer to October! 🙂

Kat Reply:

That’s great the website was (finally) adjusted, but the 1,500 to 3,000 people I’m talking about already have tickets to destinations that will no longer be served by the new Olympic Air (aka, routes that were reallocated to other airlines or cut). One cannot assume anything in a country where people are proud of disorganization, strikes, non-implementation and dismissively leaving people to fend for themselves. I don’t operate on rumor or assumptions, and I don’t know anyone who enjoys paying money for tickets that will “perhaps” be honored. Airlines in general get away with a lot more, citing cutbacks, new rules and the state of the world.

This article was written with a view to tell passengers the ‘why’ (aka, OA wasn’t simply irresponsible) behind the non-streamlined transition. I never said people should be filling out complaint forms; I just want them to have a little peace of mind and be informed of their rights and where they can go if indeed they are left high and dry in the end because not all of these people have connections inside OA. Where’s the harm in empowering people? I also said the article would be updated when/if new info came to light.

Icarus members were supposed to be informed in May to use miles, though I don’t know if they really were; many programs roll over/transfer miles to the new owner and rarely terminate programs altogether. I signed up twice to be a member many years ago and never got a card or letter, so I took that as a sign of future service and went with the Star and One World Alliances instead. Very happy with my decision.

  Val wrote @ September 14th, 2009 at 21:12

I have just booked my first Olympic flight for 11 years,( to Amsterdam) and I hope it won’t be affected by this recent news. The last time I flew Olympic the flight was cancelled( strike) rebooked the next day ,delayed ( strike of airtraffic controllers) . Finally got to Athens two days late. The whole country was on strike by then , ferries stopped and I had to wait behind rows of trucks who were stranded . My first experience of Greece! Still I came here to live .
PS Husband has flown several times with Olympic to Manchester- apart from some delays he seems satisfied!

Kat Reply:

That route is not affected.

  Stuart wrote @ September 15th, 2009 at 09:23

I have been using Olympic to fly Manchester / Athens / Rhodes ofor the last 4 years ever since we bought a house on Rhodes and have found them to be very reliable although the aircraft are a bit aged now and do need to be replaced never had any probs with booking though until now. I have booked to go back to Rhodes 19th to 28th Nov, saw a message on the Manchester airport terminal one site saying that no Olympic flights to Athens after 28th Sept. I contacted my travel agents and asked what was happening, they say that they have not been informed by Olympic of any changes and that they have spoken with Olympic who say the flight is still operating. Am Getting a little worried now though as I need to know what is actually going off in case I have to re schedule my flight

  Olympic-No Thanks wrote @ September 15th, 2009 at 17:24

I flew to London last week on OA as it was a last minute arrangement and the only flight that suited my time schedule. Although everything was OK, even the flight attendants were nice, I kept thinking that in an emergency could these cute, petite, butterfly-girly flight attendants actually perform their duties and help passengers in a time of need? As much as I may complain about Delta Airline’s unattractive flight attendants, I’d much rather have Delta’s Big Marge helping me out in an emergency than Maria the Girly girl.

  alexandra K wrote @ September 15th, 2009 at 18:18

I purchased a ticket for the middle of October, called them to ask what’s going to happen and the answer was that “sorry, we have no idea, you might lose your ticket but we’ll return the taxes”.

Not left “high and dry”? I don’t think so…

  EllasDevil wrote @ September 15th, 2009 at 23:39

From Athens Airport Aviation News

Olympic Air, the new carrier established in Greece by Marfin Investment Group deployed today its startup schedule. Flights cover the period between 29Sep and 24Oct. You can view the whole timetable at:

http://img40.yfrog.com/i/olympicairtimetable29se.pdf/

Routes that are abandoned are :
Domestic Network :
– Athens-Syros
– Athens-Kozani/Kastoria
– Thessaloniki-Rhodes (direct flight)
– Thessaloniki-Chania
– Thessaloniki-Heraklion
International Network :
– Thessaloniki-Istanbul
– From Athens to :
New York
Montreal/Toronto
Johannesburg
Kuwait/Dubai
Madrid
Manchester
Frankfurt
Munich
Dusseldorf
Stuttgart
Berlin
Moscow

Kat Reply:

This means that anyone holding a ticket for one of these destinations will not be boarding a flight home on the new Olympic Air, and Olympic Airlines should be offering you a codeshare on a different airline or a refund for the unused portion of your ticket.

  FMS wrote @ September 17th, 2009 at 13:58

Slightly off-topic, Kat, [:-)] I do admire your determination to continue using the grammatical construction “should” when in Greece. In this context, it means “ought to” from the verb “to owe”, but given my experiences of Greek comprehension of the concept, I never use it. You’re better off with “may” or “might” when considering moral or even legal obligations in Greece. Good luck to OA (non?)flyers!

Kat Reply:

I did use “owes” in the other article, and am very intentional in my word selection, choosing not to repeat the same phrases. Thus “should,” “could,” “perhaps,” “might,” “owe” and “may” are sprinkled alternatively and gratuitously throughout this site to describe what can happen (or not) in the flexible country we call Greece.

  Dimitris wrote @ September 19th, 2009 at 23:35

All Olympic airmiles (known as the Icarus frequent flyer program) expire at the end of September 2009.

On the phone they told me I must use them by September 28th. If you have no use for them donate them to someone who has!

Kat Reply:

This is not new. I already gave this information and link in the article above. I also said they notified members back in May to use miles; if you didn’t receive a notification, you/they probably don’t have the correct contact info on file.

  Gerassimos wrote @ September 20th, 2009 at 17:39

I was the first station manager, when Olympic, in april 1969 opened the service Athens/Montreal/Chicago and back to to Athens.

Everybody was complaining about ONASSIS, and the Greek government did their best to take over….and instead of improving, you see what happened. Finally now it is under a private ownership.

Olympic Airlines was ruined by their own people, and now they pretend that they are the victims. (Cockpit and cabin crew were the ones controlling the company.) Onassis knew every single point but was holding her only for his pride and for him was his hobby.

Sincerely,
Gerassimos
Kitchener Ontario

  Alex wrote @ September 20th, 2009 at 19:22

Hi all! sorry for my english I’m from Italy.
Please can you tell me if this flight is confirmed (I’m not able to see):
flight OA39, from Karpathos to Athens 03/10 16:05-17:20

Please if you know that this is not canceled tell me soon, since I’m leaving Italy for Greece this Tuesday form my (nice?) holidays…!!!

Kat Reply:

This flight is not on the canceled/abandoned list, as my article states above.

The schedule says that OA39 from Karpathos (AOK) to Athens (ATH) on October 3 is 10:20-11:20; there is one later that day but only by 2 hours (12:30-13:45). The flight for 16:05-17:20 is now OA41 and operates only on Mondays.

  Val wrote @ September 20th, 2009 at 22:25

Just listen to this anyone who has flown OA and you will understand our philosophy!!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BhtCR6AAwes

  Alex wrote @ September 21st, 2009 at 17:10

Kat, thank you very much: you saved my life!!!

It’s 5 days that I try to:
– phone all olympic office (the only one that answer is the “cargo” one, lol)
– email olympic (tried different address)
– ask anyone how can I do

AND NOBODY answered me!!! You are the only one and I have to thank you so much! Moreover because I’m leaving tomorrow morning!

Well, tomorrow I will be in Athens for a break of 3 hours, then I will take the other flight (fortunately tomorrow my trip will be all with Aegean). Then since I’m in Athens for so a long time, I will DEFINITELY try to find the Olympic office and change my return flight with the 12:30, THANKS TO YOU I can tell them that there is no flight at 16:05.

With my heart: thanks, thanks, thanks.
Alex

Kat Reply:

It’s my pleasure. Hopefully, they will not charge you a fee to change the flight. Well, at least you have one. Some people have nothing. Have a nice trip!

  Alex wrote @ September 21st, 2009 at 18:52

well, I have to say this…: just few minutes ago, “magically” they answered to one of my mails. this is the answer, from “webcheckin@olympicairlines.gr”

“What to say…? I don’t know!
I will ask the local OA office in Karpathos about 1-2 days before the flight.”

They don’t seem to be worried about flights, since “the name of company changed not the flight”.

I’m sorry to hear that, as you say, some people have nothing… I hope they will give something. 🙂

Bye, Alex

  Karen wrote @ September 21st, 2009 at 20:33

Ack. Thank you so much for publishing this.

My family has been planning this trip to Santorini for several years now, as a way of celebrating our daughter’s 16th birthday. Greece was her choice – and a way of honoring her heritage.

I rec’d an email today stating that my flights had changed significantly. We’re flying AirFrance to Athens, but needed to make the connection to Santorini. Because of the time change, our layover is now less than one hour. I’ve tried to access the website – but after an hour or so of frustration, did a general websearch and found out what has actually happened.

Obviously I’m worried. Should I attempt to cancel my tickets and go by ferry instead?

Kat Reply:

How unfortunate! The commentator before you had his flight changed by 6 hours and, as you saw, there is no info on the website. Everything I found is in the article, which is updated with new info as it comes available.

Everything could go fine…or not. In a worse case scenario — you miss the flight, or there is no flight to miss — you can still get a ferry or another flight this time a year if they don’t accommodate you, and you can protest the charge if you used a credit card. It’s impossible for me to advise you on making the best decision, since we don’t know what’s going to happen. It really comes down to your comfort level.

  Karen wrote @ September 22nd, 2009 at 01:27

Kat – thank you for your response. I also got in contact with the folks who own the villa where we’ll be staying. They suggested I try booking on Aegean.

I think I’m going to make the haul to JFK airport tomorrow to see if I can get a refund from OA due to the time change.

:::laugh::: I realize you don’t have a crystal ball, but the sympathy is comforting! 😉

Kat Reply:

Hi again, Karen. I didn’t take it that way. It’s awkward to give advice when living/working/traveling in a country (and with an airline) that is unpredictable. I don’t like it but am used to it. Your daughter only turns 16 once, and this is an important trip, so I completely empathize with your situation. I hope everything works out, and you all have a great time. 🙂

Sorry, comments are closed at this time.