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Interview – George Athanassiou: ‘Alitalia’s New Athens-Tel Aviv Route Shows Encouraging Results’

George Athanasiou

George Athanasiou

The travel and tourism market has responded positively to Alitalia’s new Athens-Tel Aviv route and the sales results are encouraging, according to the airline’s Country Manager for Greece, Cyprus and Malta, George Athanassiou.

Alitalia in May launched a new service between Athens and Tel Aviv, offering for the the first time in its history, direct daily connections between two cities outside of Italy.

“We are registering throughout the coming months a booking load factor above 75 percent since the launch of the new flight on the 2nd of May and we are expecting to grow even further… This confirms that the airline’s decision to operate this route was the right one,” Athanassiou told the Greek Travel Pages (GTP).

Alitalia’s new service is operated with Airbus A320 aircraft configured with two travel classes, Business and Economy. Flights depart from Athens at 07.30 am and arrive in Tel Aviv at 09.25 am local time. The return flight from Tel Aviv takes off at 07.45 pm and arrives in Athens at 09.55 pm, local time.

As noted by the airline, the route’s convenient flight times gives the opportunity for day trips to Tel Aviv, making the flight particularly competitive and attractive to business travelers, while it serves the constantly increasing tourist flow from Israel to Greece. Athens International Airport (AIA) is seeing a significant double-digit growth in 2017 regarding the Tel Aviv market with passenger traffic reaching 52 percent during the first four months of the year, up from 2016 (31 percent).

According to Athanasiou, the launch of the Athens-Tel Aviv route was a “well-studied operation”, first of its kind within Alitalia’s network of the so called “5th freedom” flight operations out of Athens and is performing “great” so far.

“The popularity of the route that is strongly developing in the recent years leading to a growing demand on the air traffic between the two countries as well as the intense commercial activity between Greece and Israel in the field of tourism, high-tech, business startups etc., were the main factors of Alitalia’s decision to operate a direct non-stop service between Athens and Tel Aviv,” Athanassiou said.

Alitalia also expects that the new route will further enhance the trade links between Greece and Israel. “Taking into account that Tel Aviv is the financial center of Israel, and considering the strong ties between the two countries in many aspects of activities, we are sure that our excellent product, that also allows business travelers to visit Tel Aviv and return back on the same day, will facilitate the trade sector,” Athanassiou said.

Alitalia's Athens and Tel Aviv teams: Dora Daga (Marketing & Web, Athens), Liat Peled (Marketing, Tel Aviv), Ram Ashpiz (Sales Representative, Tel Aviv) and George Athanasiou (Country Manager for Greece, Cyprus & Malta)

Alitalia’s Athens and Tel Aviv teams: Dora Daga (Marketing & Web, Athens), Liat Peled (Marketing, Tel Aviv), Ram Ashpiz (Sales Representative, Tel Aviv) and George Athanasiou (Country Manager for Greece, Cyprus & Malta)

Athens: A strategic market for Alitalia

Athanassiou underlined that Alitalia’s decision to introduce from Athens a direct connection to a destination other than an Italian one indicates the strategic importance that the company attributes to the Greek capital city. “Athens is in continuous growth, with positive developments in passengers traffic year over year and we are confident that this positive trend will continue. Alitalia always takes into consideration Athens in its strategic plans.”

Greece-Italy 2017 seasonal connections

As Athanasiou informs, Alitalia this summer will connect Italy with Greek islands and cities, demonstrating that Greece is a popular tourist destination for Italians. The airline will launch a new direct connection between Milan and Athens, operating up to 6 times a week from the 1st until the 30th of August and also resume the popular connections from Rome Fiumicino to Thessaloniki, Mykonos, Rhodes, Heraklion, Santorini and from Milan Linate to Corfu, Heraklion, Mykonos, Santorini, Rhodes and Thessaloniki.

“As for the coming winter season, various plans are under evaluation, however, the news from our side is the launching effective October 31 of our first ever scheduled direct flight between Italy and the Maldives (three-weekly Rome-Malé operations for the whole winter season until March 24, 2018) with excellent seamless connections from Athens via our Rome Fiumicino hub,” he told GTP.

Alitalia’s network of destinations from Athens

In addition to the recently inaugurated daily direct flight to Tel Aviv, Alitalia operates three daily direct flights Athens-Rome that become four direct flights from June 1 until September 28 on Mondays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. From Rome thanks to convenient connections, Alitalia passengers can continue travelling to 25 destinations in Italy, and to more than 60 destinations worldwide. “Among those we would like to highlight the new long haul destinations launched in 2016: Santiago (Chile), Mexico City, Beijing and Havana,” Athanassiou said.

Traveling to Tel Aviv (TLV) with Alitalia

“Our new daily direct flight between Athens and Tel Aviv  will allow the Israelis a quick gateway all year long to enjoy at the Athens Riviera and we are ready to welcome the Greek tourists even for a short visit to enjoy the main Israelis attractions such as the Dead sea, Jerusalem and Tel Aviv non stop city, ” said Liat Peled, Alitalia Marketing-Sales Support in Tel Aviv, told GTP regarding the Athens-Tel Aviv route.

With a focus on its nightlife and vibrant art scene, Tel Aviv stands out in Israel as a growing metropolis that is constantly changing as new trends emerge. True to its roots, however, the city still holds fast to its traditions, as seen in its mouthwatering cuisine, local theater, and folk dancing.

Whether you want to spend your vacation relaxing on the beach, browsing market stalls, or exploring the city’s history in a museum, Tel Aviv has something for everyone.

Tel Aviv’s top attractions

In a city that is ever growing, there is plenty to see. Experience the bustle of a Middle Eastern marketplace at Carmel Market, or enjoy the beauty and charm of the Neve Tzedek neighborhood. Purchase tickets to Tel Aviv Museum of Art or enjoy a show at the Suzanne Dellal Centre for a taste of Israeli art and culture. If you travel to Tel Aviv in the summer, be sure to spend at least one day on the white-sand beaches or strolling the paths of Park Hayarkon.

Tel Aviv travel tips

The city’s pleasant Mediterranean climate means there’s never really a bad time to fly to Tel Aviv.

You can find cheap hotels in Tel Aviv during December and January, when tourism is at a low.

Ticket prices for the Athens – Tel Aviv new flight start at 98 euros for return flights, economy class with dates of travel from September 4 to December 15, 2017. Tickets must be purchased by June 16. For more information, press here.

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About the Author
Nikos is Greek-American born in New York, USA, and has lived in Greece for over 30 years. He is the managing editor of Greece's leading monthly travel and tourism guide, the Greek Travel Pages (GTP) since June 2008 and of news site GTP Headlines since its launch in September 2012. Nikos has also served as international press officer for the City of Athens and for the mayor. He has a degree in Mass Media and Communications, specializing in Journalism. Nikos is a native English speaker and speaks Greek fluently.

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