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New Athens Airport Dealt Serious Blow

If forecasts for the Athens’s new Eleftherios Venizelos airport come to pass, the new airport could be dealt a serious blow. For the moment it expects to see a 20- to 25-percent drop in passenger traffic in the last quarter of the year. This is all a result of the current crises in the global aviation and tourism industries brought on by the attacks in the USA, said the airport’s operator, Athens International Airport.

For next year, it anticipates something like a 15-percent fall in overall passenger traffic. The airport bases this prediction on preliminary forecasts issued by aircraft manufacturers such as Boeing and other aviation companies.

Declining volume apart, the airport has another worry on its hands – the sharp jump in security costs. In common with airports around the world, the Spata airport has beefed up the level of security to counter possible terrorist attacks, with the new measures expected to add 6 to 7 million euros to the annual security bill.

The airport’s own 700-strong security team is complemented by 600 policemen equipped with explosive detection devices and specially trained dogs. Random checking on both passengers and baggage has gone up to 50 percent from 10 percent. The stepped-up security measures also apply to airport personnel who have to undergo centralized check-in procedures.

While the airport can handle the extra costs for the moment -via cost-cutting measures in other areas to offset the burden- it might eventually turn to the state, or pass on security charges to airline travelers.

And except for added expenses, airport revenue will drop as it must reduce charges on landing and parking rates in hopes of holding on to some of the present international traffic. Faced with a sharp drop in demand, major airlines around the world have announced big cuts in routes and frequencies and even grounded aircraft. Athens has seen its share of traffic drop significantly in recent weeks as a number of airlines reduce their flights.

Prior to the terrorism attacks, however, the airport had by better-than-expected passenger volume growth. In the April to August period, the airport saw a 4-percent year-on-year jump in commercial flights, with international flights and passengers up by 8.6 percent and 5.6 percent respectively. In August alone, international volume increased by 10 percent while Europe in comparison had forecast low growth or no gains at all for the overall year.

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