Athens International Airport (AIA) is expecting a major increase in arrivals from the United States this year with leading American carriers starting direct flights to Greece earlier and also increasing seat capacity due to high demand.
“The US is one of the most significant markets of Athens,” AIA Director of Communications and Marketing Ioanna Papadopoulou said during a recent media event, adding that the American market has traditionally been ranked as the first market in terms of foreign residence international arrivals (tourists).
Papadopoulou said that in 2021 – despite travel restrictions due to the Covid-19 pandemic and the fact that flights from America were not entering the EU for the first five months of the year – the US market managed to rank second in terms of arrivals – almost 300,000 – to Athens Airport, which gives a good picture of what can be expected in 2022.
“As soon as the American carriers began flights from Athens to the United States and vice versa they started developing very fast. Even with these few months of summer operations the US market managed to rank second which clearly shows the dynamics of the market,” Papadopoulou said.
During the second half of summer 2021 – July, August and September – AIA recorded an increase in arrivals from the US by 105 percent compared to 2019 levels.
“So passenger traffic recovered in the second half of summer 2021 and it even surpassed the traffic of 2019,” she added.
2013 vs 2019: US market to Athens grows x 3
In addition, presenting past data on the US market, Papadopoulou said that the number of travelers from America more than tripled in 2019 compared to 2013.
More specifically, in 2013 some 128,000 Americans traveled directly to Greece, with the number increasing to almost 600,000 in 2019 (direct flights).
Looking at the data more closely, the American market in 2019 was the largest source of international passengers for Athens Airport with the total number of passengers, arriving direct and indirect (on connecting flights), reaching almost 700,000.
At this point, Papadopoulou highlighted the fact that Americans are also interested in traveling to Greece during the winter.
“Incoming American tourists in 2019 not only arrived on direct connections (in the summer) but also throughout the year through other European hubs (connecting flights),” she said, adding that there is potential for US carriers to consider year-round operations to Athens.
It is noted that only Emirates offers a year-round service between Athens and Newark.
US carriers flying direct to Athens for the summer season this year include Delta (flights from New York, Atlanta and Boston), United (from Newark and Washington Dulles) and American Airlines (New York, Chicago and Philadelphia).
Seasonal flights from the US will run until October and, according to Greek Tourism Minister Vassilis Kikilias, are expected to handle more than 3,000 visitors every week to Athens.
In a recent interview, the minister said that 2022 marks a record number of direct flights from the US with more than 460,000 available airline seats.
It should also be mentioned that Americans are included among the travelers to Greece with the highest average per capita expenditure per trip. Last year, according to the Bank of Greece, the average expenditure of US visitors was the highest and amounted to 1,505 euros.
Profile of the American tourist
According to data from AIA’s passenger surveys, the majority of Americans (81 percent) travel to Greece for leisure; 15 percent come to visit friends and relatives; and a smaller percentage arrives for business reasons. These are travelers that book their tickets three months in advance. Their average length of stay in Greece is 18 days.
Papadopoulou informed that the majority of travelers from the US stay in Athens for a few days and then usually travel to other Greek destinations, mainly to the islands but also to mainland destinations such as the Peloponnese and the northern part of the country. AIA’s latest passenger survey showed that many US travelers stayed in Athens for five days before continuing their vacation to other Greek destinations.
“Let’s not forget that many of these travelers to Greece are Greek-Americans and so from Athens, they travel to their places of origin,” she said.
With regard to accommodation habits, 88 percent of American tourists prefer to stay in a hotel or a room to let in Greece; four percent choose short-term rentals; three percent choose resorts; and another three percent stay in a private house.
In early April, Greece’s tourism minister signed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with the US Ambassador to Greece that foresees the enhancement of bilateral cooperation in tourism aimed at boosting trade in travel services between the two countries.