Low-cost carrier Ryanair has announced plans to stop serving Greece’s largest and busiest airport for the winter season.
In an announcement on Thursday, the budget airline said it would close its Athens base on October 29 for the winter season, highlighting that the airport charging structure in Greece is “dysfunctional” as it rewards German airport operators “who control a vital part of Greek national infrastructure to the detriment of economic growth” in tourism and connectivity.
“Athens Airport is a prime example of how the Greek government and German high-cost ownership is failing to deliver for Greece’s people and economy,” Ryanair’s CEO, Eddie Wilson, said.
According to Ryanair, Athens Airport along with other Greek airports, managed by “German monopoly” Fraport offer no incentive to stimulate traffic in the winter season or to grow off peak tourism and connections to Athens, which should be a thriving year-round destination.
“Regrettably for Greek citizens, the decision to sell most of the Greek airports to high cost German operators has had a devastating impact on job creation as these foreign airport operators have a stranglehold on the Greek economy by restricting the flow of tourists and business connections and have no interest in lowering prices to stimulate traffic,” Wilson said.
Greek gov’t is ‘unresponsive’ to growth plans
Ryanair’s CEO added that the Greek government has “inexplicably” failed to respond to Ryanair’s ambitious growth plans for a much-needed tourism recovery scheme to lower its uncompetitive airport charges and assist traffic recovery post-Covid, as Croatia, Ireland, Portugal and others have already done.
The airline highlights said that instead of lowering charges and introducing tourism recovery schemes like other countries, the Greek government continues to apply a “penal airport development tax” of 12 euros per passenger, making Greek access charges uncompetitive.
“We again ask Minister for Tourism, Vassilis Kikilias, to reply to our written growth proposals in which we offer to transform Greece’s tourism market over the next 5 years by doubling traffic to 10m passengers p.a., bolstering off-peak tourism, creating 4,000 local jobs, and supporting much-needed regional development,” Ryanair’s CEO said.
Ryanair has claimed to have submitted several growth proposals to the Greek government since November 2021 that would “completely transform” Greek tourism over the next 5 years.
“This failure of engagement by the Greek government has already led to Ryanair’s closure of our Rhodes base this summer and has now forced us to close our Athens base this October and reallocate this capacity to lower cost competing destinations, such as Italy, Spain Cyprus and Portugal,” he added.