Athens rising: the transformation of Athens International Airport

Athens International Airport underwent significant renovation and upgrades last year, and is experiencing dynamic growth in 2018. Ross Falconer explores the latest developments.

Athens, the Greek metropolis and one of the oldest cities in the world, has countless stories to tell and offers an exciting mix of ancient history and a modern Mediterranean lifestyle.

The City of Athens, AEGEAN, and Athens International Airport, joined forces earlier this year to form the Athens Tourism Partnership. The aim is to promote Athens as an ideal, contemporary city-break destination, especially in spring, autumn and winter.

“The promotion of the city as a final destination is a strategic target of the airport in order to strengthen the city’s foothold in the international tourist market on a year-round basis,” says Dr Yiannis Paraschis, CEO Athens International Airport. “Joining forces with the City of Athens and AEGEAN is vital for the consolidation of a common effort, which needs to be sustained with the support of each and every party throughout the whole chain of tourism providers and stakeholders.”

The airport handled a record 21.7 million passengers in 2017, with a growing network of 137 destinations operated by 60 airlines. Among the most significant additions to Athens’ connectivity was the launch of direct long-haul connections to Beijing, New York and Singapore.

The dynamic trend has continued in 2018, with 10.9% growth to over eight million passengers in the first five months of the year. While domestic traffic grew slightly (+1.2%), there was a sharp increase of 16.2% in the number of international travellers. Additionally, to date, foreign residents’ international arrivals grew by 25%. The figures for the summer season are certainly impressive, with four new airlines (Cyprus Airways, Flynas, Primera Air, Wizz Air), a new based airline (Volotea), 49 new routes, 24 new destinations and 320 new weekly flights. Frequencies have also been increased on 26 existing destinations, notably Air China adding a third weekly flight on its Beijing route, and Scoot with a fourth weekly frequency to Singapore.

“Reduced ecological footprint”

A significant achievement for the airport last year was reaching Level 3+ Neutrality of ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation. “By achieving carbon neutrality, Athens International Airport continues to tangibly demonstrate its commitment to the fight against climate change,” says Paraschis. “We are proud to be among leading airports, not only as a major economic engine, but also through our reduced ecological footprint thanks to the environmental awareness and complementary efforts of our colleagues and partners across the airport community.”

The airport has a progressive environmental agenda. It was one of the first airports to invest in solar technology, building a €20 million photovoltaic park on the airport site, as a source of clean, sustainable power.

“Athens Airport managed to drastically reduce its carbon footprint, from 2005 through 2015, following a years-long effort to diminish energy consumption in its installations, through a number of interventions and investments in more efficient equipment among other actions,” Paraschis explains. “Additionally, we continue to plan additional energy and fuel saving measures, such as the certification of our energy management system as per ISO 50001, the continued modernisation of airport equipment, and the optimisation of operation of our energy systems.”

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Athens International Airport’s significant renovation and upgrades are reflected in passenger satisfaction levels. At the recent ACI ASQ Awards, Athens was recognised as the best airport in Europe (15-25 million passengers’ category) for customer experience.

Massive revamp enhances passenger experience

Athens’ terminal areas have been revamped. Focusing on functionality, services, and modern design, with the synthesis of Greek classical and contemporary elements, the 9,000sqm non-Schengen and 15,000sqm Schengen areas have been totally transformed. Completion of the projects marks a massive revamp, which enhances passenger experience. The projects offer passengers redesigned areas, enhanced comfort, and plenty of options, including two centralised security points which increase security throughput by 20%. There is also an 11,000sqm commercial area and 2,000sqm of additional seating.

Indeed, the improvements are reflected in passenger satisfaction levels. At the recent ACI ASQ Awards, Athens was recognised as the best airport in Europe (15-25 million passengers’ category) for customer experience.

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A significant achievement for the airport last year was reaching Level 3+ Neutrality of ACI’s Airport Carbon Accreditation. Pictured at the certification ceremony are: Olivier Jankovec, Director General, ACI EUROPE; Dr Yiannis Paraschis, CEO Athens International Airport; and Angela Gittens, Director General, ACI World.

“Since the airport’s opening, we measure customer satisfaction systematically and have always scored very high among our European counterparts,” Paraschis explains. “However, this year’s award is a very important distinction on behalf of our passengers, as it rewards our investment programme for the total aesthetic, functional, and commercial upgrade in the terminal areas, a project implemented during the last years. Aiming at always improving customer experience, we shall continue, during 2018-2019, our investment programme with additional works and services for the travellers using our airport.”

Planning of other works are currently underway, relating to operational facilities for departures and arrivals, enhanced passport control for departing passengers, additional check-in and ticket counters, as well as new retail and food & beverage areas.

Meanwhile, renovation of the main terminal building toilet facilities is expected to be finished in October 2018.

At the same time, the Satellite Terminal Building (STB) has undergone a series of operational, commercial and aesthetic upgrades, targeted at improving terminal operations and enhancing passenger satisfaction. The project was completed in May 2018, involving an extensive operational and commercial reconfiguration at all levels of the building. Key upgrades include the creation of a centralised security filter, along with a fully enhanced boarding pass control facility at the centre of the STB basement entrance hall. An attractive and versatile retail environment has also been developed within a considerably larger area in departures, where a walkthrough core duty free zone is combined with expanded food & beverage units.

In the same context, the 600m long underground connecting corridor between the main and satellite terminals has been aesthetically-enhanced in terms of offering passengers a dynamic and interesting experience through lighting and digital applications, as well as interactive cultural artworks.

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