Aegean Airlines Shifts Capacity Growth Away From Athens

Aegean Airlines announced this week that it will launch 11 new routes in 2020, aided by the arrival of six new A320neo aircraft. But most of this capacity growth will not be in its hub in Athens.

Aegean Airlines Shifts Capacity Growth Away From Athens
Aegean Airlines will receive six new A320neo aircraft in 2020. Photo: Anna Zvereva via Wikimedia

New Athens routes

Last time Aegean Airlines announced an international expansion was in anticipation of the 2019 summer season, in February this year. We dubbed this a “huge” expansion. The one that Aegean is preparing for 2020 is even bigger.

Aegean is offering an increase in seat capacity of 1.5 million seats across the Greek airports. This will bring the total number of seats Aegean has an offer in Greece to almost 20 million.

Four of Aegean’s new routes are to be launched out of the airline’s base in Athens International Airport. These are Bilbao, Nuremberg, Paphos, and Birmingham. On these routes, Aegean will face no competition. It will fly to these European destinations twice weekly.

Meanwhile, flights between Paphos and Athens are already being maintained by Cyprus Airways three times weekly. Aegean Airlines will also fly thrice weekly, through its subsidiary Olympic Airways.

Corfu is a new base

The majority of the 11 new routes will not be launched from Athens. Instead, the remaining seven new routes will be from Aegean’s existing base in Thessaloniki and a new base on the Greek island of Corfu. The base in Corfu will open in May 2020 and will become Aegean’s eighth base in Greece and Cyprus.

Aegean already maintains year-round flights to Corfu from Athens, but without an aircraft based in Corfu. The opening of the base there will see Aegean launch its first international route from Corfu, to Paris.

An aircraft will be based in Corfu for the seasonal operations. Photo: Aegean

Corfu remains a Star Alliance stronghold. Swiss operates flights to Geneva, Brussels Airlines to Brussels, Edelweiss to Zurich, Lufthansa to Munich, LOT to Krakow and Warsaw, Austrian to Vienna, and Eurowings to nine German and Austrian airports.

When Aegean establishes Corfu as its new base it will launch only one route from there, but it will also add 12 charter destinations. This means the Greek flag carrier will be flying almost 100,000 extra passengers from Corfu compared to last year.

Thessaloniki is a major growth focus

The majority of the 11 new flights will be launched out of Aegean’s focus city of Thessaloniki. The new routes include six international and two domestic services.

The new international destinations will be Barcelona, Brussels, Rome, Milan, Zurich, and Berlin. Aegean will face tough competition on these routes.

Aegean Airlines Shifts Capacity Growth Away From Athens
On almost all new routes out of Thessaloniki, Aegean will face competition. Photo: Tom Boon / Simple Flying

Between Thessaloniki and Berlin, Aegean will compete against Ryanair and easyJet. The route to Brussels is presently contested by TUI Belgium. From April 2020 it will also be contested by Transavia, which is launching a variety of services out of Brussels next year.

Alitalia and Neos already fly from Thessaloniki to Milan, and Ryanair already flies from this Greek port city to Rome. Finally, Swiss flies to Zurich.

This means that Aegean Airlines will have a monopoly only to Barcelona out of all its new routes from Thessaloniki. On almost all remaining services Aegean will face LCC competition.

New growth strategy?

We previously described Aegean Airlines as one of the successful examples of flag carriers that both generate and benefit from tourism growth in their countries.

However, the launch of so many new passenger and charter services out of Thessaloniki and Corfu marks a slight change for Aegean. It is a marked shift away from adding capacity and connectivity to its hub in Athens, where it successfully offers transfers from various Greek islands to European cities.

The CEO of Aegean signaled that the airline is now focusing on “strategic partnerships” with “cities and regional authorities” in Greece. But with so much competition already existing on these new Aegean routes, will the airline succeed?

What do you think? Let us know in the comments.