The civil aviation sector in Greece is one of its most vital industries, as tourism is the number one income generator for the country.
Airport development and upgrading are vital and to that end, the GOG plans include the upgrade and expansion of airports, air passenger and cargo infrastructure development, the development of Kastelli international airport in Crete island, the privatization of 22 regional airports, the upgrading and modernization of Chania and Kalamata airports in Crete and Peloponnese respectively.
The continuous increase of air traffic above Greek airports, the threat of terrorism to the world system of transports, and the mandatory EU Regulation for airport security, in effect since January 2003, have set standards for aviation security at all EU airports and created a demand for increased airport security measures.
Thirty nine (39) out of eighty three (83) commercial airports in Greece are under the jurisdiction of the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA) and accept regular or charter flights. Fifteen are international, twenty five are national and four are municipal. Twelve (12) have parallel military use and are simultaneously checked by the Military Aviation Service. Moreover, six (6) private airports are used for general aviation flights. In addition, there are nine (9) Heliports and seven (7) landing facilities under development for hydroplane routes in Greece.
According to the Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority, the number of flights in 2011 around Greece was 410.226, a decline of 4.3 percent compared to 2010 (428,863). According to same source, the total airport passenger traffic in the same year was 38,831,322, an increase of 1.4 percent compared to 2010 total air traffic (38,303,573), out of which 14,325,50515.4 million passed through the Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”, the country’s biggest airport.
The major local air carriers in Greece are Aegean Airlines, with the most flights through Athens International Airport in 2009, and Olympic Air (ranked second), which operates both domestic and international flights. Olympic Air is the former state-owned Olympic Airlines, which was privatized in 2009, and now is controlled and managed by the Marfin Investment Group (MIG). Olympic Air started operation on October 1, 2009 under the new owner/management with 14 fewer international destinations than its predecessor, Olympic Airlines. On February 22, 2010, Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air announced that they had agreed to a merger. On July 30, 2010, the proceedings for the merger were initiated. The European Commission, however, rejected this merger, as they were concerned that it would create a monopoly.
Other airlines licensed by HCAA are:
Astra - domestic and charter flights; Sky Express - a regional airline based in Heraklion, Crete, that offers both scheduled and chartered flights in Greece and the Greek Islands; Skywings - charter flights mainly to Ukraine); Hellenic Imperial Airways, which operates charter and scheduled flights since 2006, started a new direct flight to New York in June 2011, but in October 2011, the company suspended this flight; Minoan Airlines - founded in September 2011 in Heraklion, Crete, but has recently expanded its operations to the United Kingdom, starting with Oxford as a hub.
There are over 90 international air companies operating in Greece, serving more than 30 domestic and 90 international scheduled destinations. In addition, there are over 23 low-cost airlines and 100 charter airline companies operating in Greece, of which 75 operate from Athens International Airport.
Major international foreign airlines operating in Greece include, among others, Delta Airlines, US Airways, British Airways, Lufthansa, KLM, Air France, Swiss, Alitalia, Air Canada, Singapore Airlines, Thai, Etihad, Emirates, Iberia, SAS, Turkish Airlines, and Croatia Airlines. It should be noted that Delta will be suspending its flight between New York-JFK and Athens on a seasonal basis for winter 2012, effective Oct. 27. Nonstop service between JFK and Athens is expected to return in spring 2013. In addition, U.S. Airways stopped its seasonal flights (May-October) between Athens and Philadelphia.
Low cost airlines include among others Air Lingus, Air Berlin, Air Transat, Arkefly, Baboo, Belle Air, Blue 1, Brussels Airlines, Condor, Easy Jet, German Wings, Jet2, Jetairfly, Meridiana, Norwegian, Pegasus Airlines, Ryanair, Smartwings, Thomas Cook Airlines, Thomas Cook Belgium, Thomsonfly, Transavia, TUIfly and Vueling