Olympic Airlines: A Once Flourishing Means of Travel

One by one, direct flights from New York to Athens are being cancelled. Delta Airlines recently announced its decision to cancel the daily direct flight from New York to Athens and vice versa beginning October 2012. Since 2009, when Olympic Airlines ceased all operations and most flights, Athens has been losing more and more ground from its once top position in international aviation.

The lavish era of the beautiful hostesses wearing the Coco Chanel and Pierre Cardin-designed uniforms, the silver and gold cutlery, the gardenias offered to the female passengers in the first class cabin seem to belong to the past.

In early June 1966, the first Boeing 707-320 jet of Olympic Airlines, bearing the name “City of Athens,” was taking off from the Ellinikon International Airport of Athens with its destination being New York.

The flag carrier airline of Greece operated services to 37 domestic destinations and to 32 destinations worldwide. Next to the international airports of London and Paris, Athens became a meeting point for the entire traveling world.

For 50 years, both under the leadership of Onassis and the Greek state, Olympic Airlines was one of the most successful aviation companies and one of the best commercials of Greece abroad. Athens was bridging the gap between the US metropolis of New York and its thousands of Greeks and their homeland.

Nowadays, the private airlines of Greek interests are only covering short distances due to the immense lack of funds, while European and other major air carriers have taken over the international flights and the Greek market.

Poor aviation politics on behalf of the Greek state have led Elfetherios Venizelos Airport to become a small peripheral air destination in southeastern Europe. If one wishes to travel from Athens to New York, then they have to travel through Istanbul, Frankfurt, London and Copenhagen, or even Warsaw or Cairo and wait long hours before taking the next connecting flight that will lead them to their final destination.

(with information from a Proto Thema report)