Air Transport World

Digital airport: Athens International Airport has high-tech hub ambitions. (Airports).(Statistical Data Included)

Last year certainly wasn't the most propitious year in which to open a new airport. The challenges for Athens International Airport at Spata, formally named Eleftherios Venizelos in honor of a Greek statesman, were daunting in the face of the global economic downturn compounded by the aftermath of terrorist strikes in the US.

Perennial questions about the partial privatization and survival chances of struggling dominant operator Olympic Airways--long a financial basket case--cloud the airport's prospects with a degree of uncertainty. Yet officials here still stick by their ambitious stared goal of making AIA a key world-class passenger and air cargo hub in southeastern Europe to connect the Middle East and Asia with Western Europe, vying as a convenient and efficient transfer point with such established rivals as robust Vienna International and Munich.

It is debatable if AIA's vision--to develop into a major hub in the slipstream of perceived geographic advantages and state-of-the-art facilities, with plenty of room to grow when necessary--is realistic. However, with a catchment area of 6 million, the airport has a strong O&D base, accounting for 75% of the domestic and 86% of the international markets. At the same time, 20% of traffic connects, suggesting a potential for transfer traffic development, officials maintain.

IATA's latest "Global Airport Monitor" released in June ranked AIA in the top 10 worldwide for overall service after only 14 months of operation. Among European airports it was rated No. 1 in various passenger-pleasing categories: Ease of finding your way through the airport/signage, ease of making connections with other flights, restaurant/eating facilities, comfortable waiting/gate areas and parking facilities. …

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