Greece’s Aegean Airlines, coming off a strong summer season, unveiled its winter flight schedule this week. It features 18 new routes versus what it offered last winter, spread across 14 different countries. Examples include Baku, Bratislava, Chisinau (Moldova), Dubai, Innsbruck, and Luxor and Sharm El Sheikh in Egypt, all from Greece’s capital Athens. Other highlights include new nonstops between Thessaloniki and Cairo, as well as a second daily frequency between Athens and Frankfurt.
“The new winter program aims to continuously provide new options to travelers,” the company said in a statement, “but also to offer more attractive seasonal destinations for the ‘non-summer’ period (such as Sharm El Sheikh, Luxor, Innsbruck) after the successful experiment of flights to Marrakech in the previous winter season.”
Aegean’s business has always been highly seasonal, with robust summertime profits typically diluted by heavy wintertime losses. This pattern stems from the airline’s heavy reliance on inbound tourism, which peaks in the summer months. One of Aegean’s top strategic priorities currently is promoting “all-year-round tourism,” in part by offering a broader array of destinations during the off-peak months.
The Star Alliance carrier is also extending the availability of flights to Greek island destinations like Rhodes, Heraklion, and Kalamata, keeping them in the schedule until November, which is well past the typical summer peak. It’s offering some winter season charter flights to Rhodes as well, in partnership with a tour operator.
In announcing its winter flight plans, Aegean said the first nine months of 2023 have been “very strong.” It flew nearly 12 million passengers from January through September, a 30% year-over-year increase.
Greek tourism has boomed since the end of the Covid pandemic, lifting the country’s airlines and supporting an economic revival. Helpfully, some of that increase came from strong growth in domestic traffic during the busy July-to-September quarter. For much of the 2010s, domestic traffic suffered as Greece’s economy struggled. In the third quarter, domestic passenger volumes rose 17% year-over-year, compared to 18% for international volumes.
“Building on the momentum of the successful growth of the last 18 months, we continue to offer our passengers new options and travel experiences, investing in the expansion of our network with new destinations in the winter season, strengthening the connectivity of our network with international aviation hubs,” wrote Pepi Stamati, deputy chief commercial officer of network and revenue, in a LinkedIn post.
Aegean performed exceptionally well financially in the second quarter, earning an 18% operating margin. That erased losses from the offpeak first quarter, when its operating margin was negative 6%. It will likely announce third quarter results sometime in November; it did so last year on November 10.
Separate from its release about the new winter schedule, Aegean this week published a presentation on its website that outlines what it sees are its chief competitive advantages, namely its brands (Aegean and subsidiary Olympic), its affiliation with the Star Alliance, its “efficient” cost structure, its extensive route network, and Greece’s growing air travel market. The document also shows its forecast to carry 15.5 million passengers this year, which would top the 15 million it flew in 2019, the final full year before the Covid crisis. In 2007, the final full year before the global financial crisis, Aegean moved just 5 million passengers. To support future growth, the airline is adding new Airbus A320/21neos. This winter, it will operate a fleet of 76 planes, 28 of them Neos.