The Athens Skal Club called on top-level executives from the new Athens international airport to join members for the monthly luncheon and explain why the airport charges are so high. The club’s president, Makis Fokas, welcomed two executives and explained the problems the travel trade faces because of high prices.
He said that in the 15-some times that he has used the new Athens international airport since its opening, he found it to have excellent security and it to be a well-built and functioning airport: “But it’s expensive and may be causing visitors to select other more inexpensive destinations.”
Special guest at the dinner, Marios Trivizas, president of the Panhellenic Federation of Tourism Enterprises, said the airport even charges tour coaches and chartered taxis for parking, which decreases an already small profit margin for owners.
In reply, Yiannis Paraschis, deputy CEO and chief development officer of the airport, and Georgios Karamanos, the airport’s manager of marketing business development, reminded that the airport must make a profit in order to survive. However, they said, we will not do so by attempting to overcharge users.
They also said that even though highest profit comes from offshoots like parking and commercial rents within the airport, and not charges to airlines, it would take three years before the company can cover expenses.
“Our stockholders know that because of our high costs they will not receive dividends on their investment for at least seven years,” said Mr. Parachis.
In the meantime, we are doing our best to make sure everyone gets their money’s worth, he implied. He said that scheduled flights are up some 5% for the month of April and that while charter flights may be down, this type of transport handles a mere 9% of all tourism traffic to the capital.
He also reminded that the airport has been a boon for Greece and boasts a number of “firsts.” For example, he said, it acquired the biggest loan ever for any business enterprise in Greece, it has invested more than any other company has before it, and it is the first major project undertaken in the country not just to finish on time but before its scheduled completion date.
He acknowledged that the first 72 hours of airport operation was quite problematic, even though management implemented a six-month pilot operation program. To his credit, he refused to lay the blame on any one doorstep.
Today, after a few months of normal operation, he said, the major aim is to increase the quality of services even more and to help private companies working within the airport -handling companies, etc.- to do the same.
Thus far, airport managers seem to be on the right track. Of the some 500 letters received from Greek and foreigner travelers that used the airport, said Mr. Parachis, the majority were positive. As well, recent data show 85% of all flights to and from the airport were on time.