ⓘ Athens International Airport
Athens International Airport Eleftherios Venizelos, commonly initialised as AIA, is the largest international airport in Greece, serving the city of Athens and region of Attica. It began operation on 28 March 2001 and is the main base of Aegean Airlines, as well as other smaller Greek airlines. It is located near the old Ellinikon International Airport. Athens International is currently a member of Group 1 of Airports Council International as of 2019, it is the 26th-busiest airport in Europe.
1.1. History Development and ownership
AIA is located between the towns of Markopoulo, Koropi, Spata and Loutsa, about 20 km 12 mi to the east of central Athens 30 km 19 mi by road, due to intervening hills). The airport is named after Eleftherios Venizelos, the prominent Cretan political figure and Prime Minister of Greece, who made a significant contribution to the development of Greek aviation and the Hellenic Air Force in the 1930s. As to-date, the airport is operated by AIA S.A. and ownership is divided between the Hellenic Republic Greek State and Private Sector in a 55%-45% stake following a PPP scheme for the airport company. Currently, private investors include the Copelouzos Group 5% and PSP Investments of Canada 40%, following purchase of Hochtiefs shares.
The airport was constructed to replace the now-closed Athens Ellinikon International Airport, as the latter had reached its saturation point with no physical space for further growth. Studies for a new airport had been carried out from as early as the 1970s, with as many as 19 different locations being looked at before an area close to the town of Spata was chosen as suitable. Athens Airport SA, a state-owned company, was established in 1978 to proceed with the plans. However, after delays and slow development, the project was revived in 1991 with the then government launching an international tender for the selection of a build-own-operate-transfer partner for the airport project, with Hochtief of Germany being selected.
In 1996, Athens International Airport S.A. AIA was established as a Public–private partnership with a 30-year concession agreement. That same year, the €2.1 billion development finally began with an estimated completion date of February 2001. The airport construction was completed five months before schedule, but was delayed opening a month due to surface connections to Attiki Odos not being completed. The airport officially opened on 28 March 2001.
Its major features include two parallel runways being 4 km 2.5 mi and 3.8 km 2.4 mi long respectively. The airport has received approval from the European Aviation Safety Agency and the Federal Aviation Administration for take-offs and landings of the biggest passenger jet worldwide, the A380. The first ever A380 to visit Eleftherios Venizelos Athens International Airport made an emergency landing on 13 April 2011 for emergency medical reasons. The first scheduled A380 flight took place on 26 October 2012 by Emirates.
1.2. History Greek government debt-crisis impact 2009–2013
The Greek government-debt crisis reduced the overall passenger traffic of the airport for six consecutive years. Many long-haul airlines outright terminated service to the airport, while others chose to operate on a seasonal basis only, opting to terminate service during the winter months. Moreover, these problems were further exacerbated by the closure of Olympic Airlines, which operated many long-haul flights to and from the airport. In 2013, the airport handled just above 12.5 million passengers, 3.2% fewer than in 2012 and lower by approximately 25% when compared to 2007s traffic, which was the all-time-high at that time.
1.3. History Recovery and new levels of passenger traffic 2014–2015
2014 signaled a strong recovery for the airports passenger traffic and all statistical figures. More than ten new airlines started new flights to and from Athens. Aegean Airlines strengthened its network by 30% with many more destinations scheduled for 2015 while Ryanair established a new base in the Athens Airport and added eight destinations. The airport company recorded an increase in passenger traffic in excess of 21% during 2014, reaching 15.1 million passengers, resulted both by new destinations but also by increased capacity offered on established ones. Characteristically, Singapore and Gulf Air resumed flights while Emirates, Etihad Airways and Qatar Airways fly more frequently to/from Athens. Delta Air Line resumed their weekly flights and American Airlines retained their seasonal schedules to/from USA with even more frequent connectivity. From 2017 onwards, year-round services to Singapore are going to resume after more than five years. Flights are going to be operated by Scoot.
According to AIA published statistics, total traffic for 2015 achieved an impressive performance reaching almost 18.1 million passengers, an all-time-record for the airport at that time, increased by 19% on year-over-year basis and by 1.55 million +9.4% the previous best, which was the pre-crisis year 2007. In addition, over the same period, aircraft traffic exhibited a solid growth of 14% year-over-year. Moreover, in 2015 a significant rise +38% was recorded by transfer passengers, with the international to international transfer traffic marking an impressive increase +60% demonstrating the significant enhancement of the Athens airport connectivity.
1.4. History Exceeding twenty million passengers 2016–2018 and beyond
2016 was a landmark year for the Athens International Airport, both for domestic and international destinations. Annual results reflected a solid performance for a third year in a row fueled by double-digit growth, this time passing the twenty million mark, increased by 10.7% on year-over-year basis. Healthy growth continued in 2017 with the airport showing traffic increase of 8.6% to a total of 21.7 million passengers, yet another all-time record for the Athens airport. During 2018, the airport achieved yet another record high, reporting increased passenger traffic by 11% to more than 24.1 million passengers. Equally, aircraft traffic achieved a new record with a reported annual growth of 10.8% to 217.094 movements.
For the first three quarters of 2019, the airport traffic shows signs of further increase with passenger numbers up by 6.5% to 19.97 million passengers and aircraft movements up by 3.2%.
2.1. Terminals Overview
The airport currently has two terminals, the main terminal and the satellite terminal accessible by an underground link from the main terminal. It is designed to be extended in a modular approach over the ensuing years in order to accommodate increases in air travel. These extensions are planned in a six-phase framework. The first and current phase allowed the airport to accommodate 26 million passengers per year. When the airport originally opened, the current phase called for a capacity of only 16 million passengers per year; however, the capacity was able to increase without progressing to the next phase thanks to advanced IT logistics. The sixth and final expansion phase will allow the airport to accommodate an annual traffic of 50 million passengers, with the current layout leaving enough space for five more terminals to be added. As such, the parallel runway system currently in place has been designed to accommodate flight traffic with this high equivalent annual passenger load upon completion of the final expansion phase.
2.2. Terminals Main Terminal
The main terminal building handles all intra-Schengen flights, as well as several non-Schengen flights. All of the airports 144 check-in desks are located in the Main Terminal and it has three separate levels, one for arrivals, one for departures and a food court level complete with a view of the eastern runway. Finally, the terminal is equipped with fourteen jet bridges and eleven belt conveyors for luggage.
- Hall A is used for flights to Non-schengen countries and Non-European countries.
- Hall B handles flights to Intra-schengen countries as well as domestic services.
In March 2018, the Athens International Airport issued a tender for its first physical expansion, concerning the south wings of the main terminal. The tender called for a building expansion with a total area of approximately 14.950 square meters over five levels 0 to 4. The construction company to build the expansion has been awarded in summer 2018 and the project is scheduled to be completed by mid-2019. It will add 18 more counter check-in decks as well as additional space for arrivals, departures, security and automated control gates, it will also add expanded shopping area and new lounges by mid-2020.
2.3. Terminals Satellite Terminal
The satellite terminal has two levels, one for arrivals and the other for departures. It is easily accessible through an underground link complete with moving walkways. The terminal is equipped with ten jet bridges and is capable of handling annual traffic of six million passengers.
In recent years its parking stands were utilized for long term storage of airliners, specifically two ex-Olympic Airways Airbus A340-300s both aircraft were transferred to its new owner in February 2017 and a Boeing 767-300ER of defunct Greek start-up carrier SkyGreece Airlines. However, as of June 2017, the parking space of the satellite terminal is in full use for both Schengen and non-Schengen area flights and to accommodate increased traffic. From June 2017 some low-cost carriers were using it. On 24 May 2018, the Satellite Terminal officially restarted full operations. The airlines using it are Ryanair, Easyjet, Vueling, Eurowings, Norwegian, Transavia and Transavia France, TUIfly Belgium, Brussels Airlines, Aer Lingus, Air Transat and Scoot.
Athens International Airport is the largest and busiest airport in Greece. By the end of 2019, it was the 26th busiest airport in Europe handling a total traffic of 25.57 million passengers.
Busiest passenger routes by country
The table below shows passenger totals at Athens International Airport by country destination during 2018.
4.1. Ground transport Railway and Metro
A railway station is immediately adjacent to the airport terminal, accessible by an elevated walkway. Athens Metro line 3 and the suburban railway service Proastiakos run trains to and from this station.
4.2. Ground transport Road
The airport is accessible by the Attiki Odos toll highway from the centre and northern Athens, Varis-Koropiou Avenue from the western part, Laurio Ave. from the South, and Spata-Loutsa Avenue from the East. A variety of parking options are available on site at the airport in three different parking lots. Located at the arrivals level, opposite the airport terminal, the airport offers short-term parking for up to five hours with 1.357 parking spaces available in lots P1 and P2. Long-term parking is located across the airports main access road Attiki Odos with 5.802 parking spaces in lot P3. A free shuttle bus is available to transport passengers, while the lots are also accessible by foot to the terminal. Premium valet service is also offered at the Departures level by Entrance 3.
4.3. Ground transport Taxi
Taxis are available at the designated Taxi waiting area located by exit 3 of the arrivals level. Limousine service is also available upon request by the inner curbside of the arrivals level between exits 3 and 4.
4.4. Ground transport Bus
Four bus lines connect directly to the Athens greater area, X95 starts from Syntagma square, X93 connects Aiport to intercity bus stations KTEL Kifissos Bus Terminal and Liosion bus terminal, X96 to Athens main port Piraeus and X97 to Elliniko metro station the Southern terminal of Line 2. Buses disembark passengers at the departures level and depart from the arrivals level between exits 4 and 5. Regional bus services by KTEL Express operate to the airport, currently connecting the airport to Rafina, Markopoulo, Lavrio, Kalyvia and Keratea.
5. Other facilities
- Aegean Airlines and Olympic Air have their head office in Building 57 on the airport property. Olympic Air also has offices in Building 53A.
- The Air Accident Investigation and Aviation Safety Board has an office in Office 1311 in Building 11.
- Sheraton Hotel
- The Greek fast food company Goodys S.A. has its head office in Building 14B.
6. Accidents and incidents
- On 14 August 2005, Helios Airways Flight 522, a Boeing 737 was a scheduled passenger flight of Helios Airways that crashed into mountain north of Marathon and Varnavas 40 km from Athens. All 115 passengers and 6 crew on board the aircraft were killed. This is the deadliest aviation disaster in Greek history.