Πέμπτη, 11 Ιουνίου 2015

Across the Atlantic “à la Grecque” With SkyGreece!




Justine Frangouli-Argyris

A new airline, funded by Greek-Canadian entrepreneurs and proudly bearing the name “SkyGreece,” was inaugurated in May with the aim of servicing the transatlantic route connecting Athens to the Canadian metropolises of Toronto and Montréal.  As of June 19th, SkyGreece will be adding the city of New York to its destinations, with the initial flight to be launched in the presence of the Greek Deputy Minister for Tourism, Elena Kountoura.

 With the Greek flag adorning the tail of its aircraft, “Taxiarhis,” SkyGreece causes waves of emotion whenever it lands at Toronto’s “Pearson” and Montreal’s “Trudeau” airport as Canada’s expatriate Greeks openly display their excitement that a Greek carrier has come along to solidify their ties with the homeland.

 
The administration of SkyGreece has presented their ambitious plans for the new airline which aims to link the diaspora of North America with Greece. Thoroughly Greek in their approach, SkyGreece’s direct flights enable passengers to indulge in Greece’s famous hospitality, sampling tasty Greek cuisine and enjoying a variety of Greek music. Furthermore, pamphlets with tourist information about Greece are available inside the aircraft with the goal of informing and promoting Greek tourism at large.

 
The launch of the flights have come none too soon, filling a deep void that has existed since 2009 when Olympic Airways ceased transatlantic operations. "We were the only ones who came from North America to invest in Greece.  If the outcome is successful, it will be seen as a pilot project for potential investors,” stressed SkyGreece’s chairman, Fr. Nicholas Alexandris, recently.

 
It is no coincidence that SkyGreece selected former Olympic Airways pilots to anchor its team. It was on September 29, 2009 when Captain Basil Dorizas landed an Olympic A340 Airbus at Athens’ Eleftherios Venizelos airport, marking the airline’s last flight from Canada. On May 17, 2014 Dorizas joined SkyGreece, wanting to contribute to the development of a new Greek air carrier whose planes bear the Greek flag.

 
"Greeks in Canada, where I have lived for the last thirty years, were left out once Olympic Airways severed the umbilical cord between Canada and Greece," says Father Alexandris.

 For the time being and to no one’s surprise, Father Alexandris bases his expectations for the success of SkyGreece on the large Greek expat communities in New York, Montreal and Toronto that were suddenly left wanting when Olympic suspended service.

 Greece’s Deputy Tourism Minister, Elena Kountouras, has expressed her government’s support for SkyGreece Airlines, noting that it is a worthy project that aims to connect Greek expatriates with their Motherland. Ms. Kountouras also did not fail to mention that the Greek flag adorning SkyGreece’s fleet is a picture that evokes emotion.

 
The airline is based in Markopoulo, outside Athens, and was founded in 2012 by Greek-Canadian expatriates. Today, it boasts offices in New York, Montreal and Toronto and has a total of 150 employees, 100 of whom are based in Greece. This is not simply another airline, but, rather, a company that hopes to add to the development of Greek tourism and create more jobs in the sector.

  
SkyGreece is launching a route between Toronto, Budapest and Thessaloniki in order to serve the expatriates from northern Greece, while at the same time filling a gap in the Hungarian airline industry that does not provide a direct connection with Toronto.

 The immediate plans are to inaugurate another flight linking Toronto with Zagreb (via Athens) in order to embrace the growing tourist destinations of the Dalmatian Coast in conjunction with those of Greece.

 The company wants to become a protagonist in the airline industry by unlocking “new” markets, offering competitive pricing and growing its network with the addition of flights to Chicago, Boston and South Africa as well as other European cities beyond 2016. As administration officials stressed, the initial capital invested is in the range of 45 million dollars and expectations are for profitability to be attained within two years.

 Ticket prices range from $850, including all taxes, with passengers having the added luxury of bringing along two suitcases (each weighing 20 kg) at no additional cost.

 Foremost, SkyGreece’s flights are manned by senior pilots with years of transatlantic experience, the majority of whom worked for Olympic Airways. Captain Dorizas, SkyGreece’s director of flight operations, explained that the measures undertaken by the company concerning the issue of security are much more stringent than those required by existing regulations, one aspect being that SkyGreece’s cockpits have two pilots along with a co-pilot instead of the usual pilot/co-pilot requirement.

 SkyGreece has been approved by the major licensing agencies of EASA, the CTA and the FAA, ensuring flight licenses in Europe, Canada and the United States respectively.