Greek regional airline Astra Airways has been administered something of a death blow by the International Air Transport Association (IATA). Late yesterday, the Association warned Greek travel agents to stop selling tickets on the airline with immediate effect. This comes after a recent spate of flight cancellations and signs of financial distress at the airline.
Travel agents told to cease selling tickets immediately
Earlier this week, we reported that the Civil Aviation Authority of Greece was investigating Astra Airlines after multiple reports of canceled flights and signs of financial problems came to a head. Now, it seems that things have taken a turn for the worst, as the International Air Transport Association (IATA) has effectively taken the airline off the market.
According to Greek news agency Voria, IATA contacted travel agencies who belonged to their Greece BSP office. Greek travel agencies were informed late yesterday to terminate all activity with Astra Airlines with immediate effect. This included not accepting bookings, no longer issuing tickets and removing the codes used by the airline from their systems.
The president of the Association of Tourist Agencies in Macedonia-Thrace, Viron Theologi, told Voria,
“This morning at 10.10 we received a letter requesting us to stop booking and issuing tickets for Astra Airlines. This development is sad. I hope the gap created is somehow filled. The problem is particularly acute for the islands that connect to Athens and Thessaloniki via Astra. In fact, there is no ferry connection to these destinations from Thessaloniki, which makes the situation worse.”
Troubled times ahead
For Astra Airlines, this is a major blow as the majority of its tickets are sold through Greek travel agencies. Even if the airline is able to keep itself afloat in terms of fuel, salaries and other financial commitments, it would now need to reconnect with IATA from the start in order to get bookings on its services.
This news comes after a difficult couple of weeks for the airline, as it reportedly canceled a number of government-subsidized flights to the Greek islands in the past week. It had previously said that an explanation about this, as well as a decision on compensation due to booked passengers, would be issued today (15th November). The statement read,
The company would like to inform the public that with regards to the recently canceled flights, requests for compensation for passengers will be examined and answered by November 15, 2019. We apologize for the inconvenience caused and are working for the smooth and orderly continuation of our flights.
However, no statement from the airline is forthcoming to this effect today. The airline is reportedly seeking an investor to come forward and prop it up financially so it can continue to provide services. Today’s news of IATA’s suspension of its services is yet another challenge to overcome, and won’t help its chances of securing an investor.
Aegean steps in to fill the gap
Thankfully there is relief in sight for those stranded by the loss of Astra. Aegean Airlines has reportedly announced it will be stepping up its fights from the 17th November onwards. From Sunday, the airline will add some 306 flights equating to 28,476 seats to remote Greek destinations.
The airline will add more services from Thessaloniki to Chios, Samos, Kos, Heraklion and Mytilene, and from Athens to Chios. The boosted schedule will remain in place for the entire winter season, up until May 24th, 2020.