Olympic Air: From Onassis Golden Age To Aegean Takeover



Olympic_OnassisThe merger of Olympic Air and Aegean Airlines symbolizes the end of a whole era. The gilded crockeries, stunning fashionable uniforms for flight attendants and pilots, as well as seminars of Olympic officials enrolled in Monte Carlo in the time of the late shipping magnate Aristotle Onassis who founded the airline has given way to economic crisis and repositioning of airlines.

The European Commission approved the takeover of the failing Olympic by  Aegean Airlines because it said the once iconic national carrier of Onassis would otherwise likely go out of business because it’s been bleeding so much money.

The history of Greek aviation goes back to before Onassis’s “Golden Age” started in 1930 when the first state airline under the name Greek Airline Icarus was established but went bankrupt, limiting interest in air transport. The Greek Company for Air Transport took its place. At the same time, in 1935, a second airline was created, the privately owned Technical and Aeronautical Exploitations.

After World War II, in 1947, the airlines based in Greece were Greek Air Transport and Hellenic Airlines. In 1951 the difficult financial situation of these airlines led to a decision taken by the Greek state to merge them into one, TAE Greek National Airlines. The new airline faced financial problems again so the government closed it down in 1955. There was no interest in buying the airline.

In July 1956, the Greek State signed an agreement with Onassis, for the exclusive use of air transport in Greece. On April 6, 1957 the company was renamed Olympic Airways. The first domestic flight started the same year. Generally Olympic had an upswing in a domestic and international level as well.

onassis-olympic-airIn addition, in 1971 a subsidiary airline Olympic Aviation was created to serve the Greek islands more economically and efficiently and flights were expanded globally.

In 1972 Olympic turned to the important Greece-Australia market, beginning Boeing 707–320 operations between Athens and Sydney twice a week via Bangkok and Singapore.

In 1973 the death of Onassis’ son, Alexander, in a plane crash shocked Greek people and a new phase began for Olympic Airways. A few months later, Onassis sold all of the OA shares to the Greek state and died in 1975.

The year of 1976 was a landmark year in the history of Olympic which passed into Greek government’s dominance. The same year the firm obtained the first Boeing 737-200 and created Olympic Catering; 25 aircraft and 30 international destinations were served.

From December 1977 until January 1978 there was the biggest strike ever in the history of Olympic, lasting 35 days. The main reasons for the strike were the creation of labor regulations, crew composition and new wage. This prolonged strike had a pleasant end for employees.

The beginning of the 1980s found Olympic facing more strikes which sought primarily to implement Regulation flights and improved economic earnings. In 1982 the airline celebrated 25 years of operation.

In the early 1990s, the staff had picked up Sundays, holidays and night itineraries. However on October 4 bloody incidents were unfolding between strikers, redundant and riot police outside the building of Olympic Catering.

On March 28, 2001 the airline made its last flight, from the Hellinikon airport for Thessaloniki. The Greek Ministry of Transportation had announced in September 2008 a plan to create a new company that would acquire the name and brand of Olympic but it will have no relationship with her. The plan involved a contraction of flight operations of the company to 65% of the current and the privatization of the new company.

In March 2009, the Greek government agreed to the transfer of Olympic Airlines to the private group Marfin Investment Group (MIG). On March 23, 2009 the agreement was signed between Olympic and Marfin.


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