Nestos River

Olympic Airlines

Olympic Airlines (Ολυμπιακές Αερογραμμές, Olympiakés Aerogrammés - OA) is the flag carrier airline of Greece, based in Athens. It operates services to 35 domestic destinations and to 39 destinations world-wide. Its main base is Athens International Airport, with hubs at Thessaloniki International Airport, "Macedonia" and Rhodes International Airport, "Diagoras". By December 2007, the airline employs about 8,500 staff.

Olympic Airlines is also accredited by IATA with the IOSA (IATA Operational Safety Audit) for its safety practices.


The Start of Olympic

The origins of Olympic Airways was in 1930, when the first predecessor airline was established. The airline was called Icarus but after just a few months went bankrupt due to financial problems and limited Greek interest in air transport. G.C.A.T./Ε.Ε.Ε.Σ. (Greek Company for Air Transport/Ελληνική Εταιρεία Εναέριων Συγκοινωνιών) took its place. At the same time, in 1935, a second airline was created, the privately owned T.A.E. (Technical and Aeronautical Exploitations/Τεχνικαί Αεροπορικαί Εκμεταλλεύσεις). Soon after the World War II, in 1947, three airlines were based in Greece: T.A.E., G.A.T./ΕΛΛ.Α.Σ. (Greek Air Transport/Ελληνικαί Αεροπορικαί Συγκοινωνίαι) and Hellenic Airlines/Α.Μ.Ε. (Αεροπορικαί Μεταφοραί Ελλάδος).

In 1951, the poor financial state of all three airlines led to a decision by the Greek state to merge them into one, TAE Greek National Airlines. The new airline faced serious financial problems so the government closed it down in 1955. There was no interest in buying the airline so the Hellenic State bought the company back. In July 1956 an agreement was made between the Hellenic State and Greek shipping-magnate Aristotle Onassis to sell the company. The company flew under the name T.A.E. until the end of the year and for the first few months of 1957, when, on 6 April 1957, Olympic Airways (Ολυμπιακή Αεροπορία/Olympiaki Aeroporia) was born.

Olympic in the 1960s

The new company developed rapidly. In 1960 the first jet aircraft of OA entered into service, the De Havilland Comet 4B. At the same time, Olympic and British airline BEA agreed to create the first codeshare flights. Later on, the companies expanded their cooperation. When Hellenic crews had to spend their night in London, British crews would fly the Greek Comets to BEA destinations, and the same with Greek crews and British Comets. On all BEA and OA Comets, there would be a "BEA-OLYMPIC" sign.

In 1965, Olympic placed its first orders for the Boeing 707-320 jet aircraft. The first was delivered in 1966, bearing the name "City of Athens". The nonstop route Athens - New York City (JFK Airport) was the first to be launched. In 1968, the first routes to Africa were launched and OA received the Boeing 727-200 jet aircraft. In 1969, OA launched a route to Canada and phased out the Comet 4Bs.

Olympic in the 1970s

In 1971, OA purchased the new NAMC YS-11 turboprop aircraft to replace the aging Douglas DC-3 and Douglas DC-6, used throughout the domestic network of the company. In 1971, Olympic Aviation/Ολυμπιακή Αεροπλοϊα was created, so that the Greek islands could be more efficiently served. In 1972 Greece was linked to Australia for the first time.

Olympic then purchased the Boeing 720-051B jet aircraft, a derivative of the Boeing 707, and the Boeing 747-200 OA was also interested in the supersonic aircraft BAC-Aerospatiale Concorde. On January 5, 1973, a Concorde landed at Athens International Airport for a demonstration.

On 22 January 1973, an incident occurred that dramatically changed the future of OA. The death of Aristotle Onassis' son, Alexander, in a plane crash came as a shock to the 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 shortly after (in 1975). In 1976, under state management, OA purchased the Boeing 737-200 jet aircraft and created Olympic Catering, which served both OA and foreign airlines. In 1977, in a cost-cutting effort, OA shut down the Australia route, followed by the Canadian one in 1978, when OA also placed its first orders for the Airbus A300.

Olympic in the 1980s, 1990s, 2000s

In 1984, three more B747-200 aircraft were purchased from Singapore Airlines, and the Canada and Australia routes were reopened. A new Olympic Airways Cargo division was created, by converting the Boeing 707-320 "City of Lindos", but the plans were soon abandoned. In 1986, there were strikes at OA, and financial losses mounted.

The company has faced serious financial trouble since the 80s, mostly because of management problems. Greek politicians and their families travelled free on the airline or for token amounts. Greek governments also made Olympic carry the press with a 97% discount. Olympic AirTours (Ολυμπιακή Τουριστική) was created as a subsidiary of OA, which issues tickets not only for OA, but for other airlines as well. Very soon, Olympic AirTours was renamed Macedonian Airlines and reestablished as a charter flight company.

In the mid-1980s a nonstop route to Tokyo was launched but soon shut down due to limited passenger interest and heavy losses. Olympic purchased Boeing 737-400 aircraft in 1991, as well as the advanced version of the A300, the A300-600R. Due to the rising losses and debts, the government decided to formulate a restructuring program in which all debts were erased. This program, as well as all the plans that followed, failed. A few years later, in an attempt to make OA profitable, its management was given to the subsidiary of British Airways, Speedwing. The result was even larger debts and rising losses. In 1999, Olympic purchased four Airbus A340-313X aircraft, to replace the ageing B747-200.

Olympic Airways to Olympic Airlines

Very soon the losses became excessive, so in 2003 the government decided to restructure the Olympic Airways Group of Companies. The subsidiary, Macedonian Airlines S.A., was renamed Olympic Airlines S.A. and took over the flight operations of Olympic Airways, erasing at the same time all of the airline's debts. The remaining group companies, except for Olympic Aviation (Olympic Airways, Olympic Into-Plane Company, Olympic Fuel Company, Olympic Airways Handling and the Olympic Airways Technical Base), merged and formed a new company, called Olympic Airways - Services S.A.. In December 2004, the Greek government decided to privatize Olympic Airlines, but the sale process ended in failure as none of the buyers were eager to repay the Greek state the almost 700 million euro in state aid declared illegal by the European Commission in December 2005.

In 2005, the Greek Government looked for potential buyers to privatize OA. In April of that year, a short list of potential buyers was submitted that included Aegean Airlines, German LCC DBA and a Greek-American consortium called Olympic Investors. Shortly afterwards Aegean Airlines pulled out, followed by DBA. In September 2005, the Greek government signed a non-binding agreement with Olympic Investors to buy the airline. In an interview, Olympic Investors stated that they were backed by York Capital with 6.5 billion Dollars and assured that OA's workers would not lose their jobs. They also stated that the airline would open up new long haul routes, including Baltimore, hire more staff, and upgrade the fleet. They stated that OA should continue to operate as an integrated company and that they weren't interested in buying just parts of OA. By the end of the year, the offer fell through because the huge fine imposed on the airline by the European Commission hadn't been dealt with.

According to Greek media, the government planned to relaunch the company in late 2006. The code name for the project was "Pantheon Airways". In June 2006, Greek media reported that "Sabre Aviation Consulting Services" was contracted by the Greek government to find investors, and would develop a business plan for an airline to replace Olympic Airlines, aiming to start operating in autumn 2006. Under this plan the government would be a minority shareholder of the new carrier, which would be run as a private airline. The planned re-launch date passed without anything happening, and it appears the plan was frozen. However, Pantheon Airways still exists.

In 2006 OA was thrown a life line, when the courts ordered Greece to repay them almost 564 million euro owed to the airline. The money was owed to OA from legally subsidized routes to Greek islands and costs of the relocation to the new airport. The money would be used to pay back part of the State aid declared illegal by the European Commission in December 2005. Olympic Airlines re-designed their website to introduce the e-ticket service, launched on July 31 2007, in response to the surge of online booking and online check-ins. The e-ticket service introduction by EDS meant Olympic abolished their old "Hermes" booking system, which had served the company for more than two decades. As of November 2007, the e-ticket service is available on all European and International routes, and on 19 of the airline's 37 domestic routes.

On September 12, 2007, OA won a legal battle with EU Regulators. The Luxembourg-based court ruled that Greece must pay back most, but not all of the money The European Commission had demanded them to repay. The court found that the Commission had failed to prove that some of the funds violated EU state aid rules. Those funds included unpaid taxes on fuel and spare parts, as well as unpaid fees to Athens International Airport. The new amount owed by Olympic was €130 million, as compared with the original €160 million.

The Future of Olympic

On that same day Olympic Investors, the Greek-American consortium that was interested in buying Olympic in 2005, stated re-newed interest in buying the airline. Olympic Investors stated that the previous sale stopped because of EU penalties and that they were confident they would be resolved. They also stated that they believed the Greek Government would move quickly to privatize OA after the elections on September 16, 2007.

In November 2007, Irish airline Ryanair filed a suit with the European Commission, saying it had not looked into its claims that Olympic had not paid back its debt.

On December 01, 2007 transport minister Kostas Hatzidakis announced that the entire Olympic Airways Group debts amounted to 2 billion euro, and that the airline in its present form and size would cease existing in 2008. This seemed to be the only way for the European Commission to write off the company's debts to the Greek public sector. He stated that Athens was under more pressure to recover the money Olympic owed, thanks to the Ryanair lawsuit.

On September 16, 2008 the Greek Government announced a major restructuring, whereby a new private airline under the name "Pantheon Airways" will launch in October 2008. Pantheon will operate parallel to Olympic Airlines until April 2009, when Olympic Airlines will shut down and Pantheon will take over a portion of its routes. Pantheon will then be renamed with "Olympic" being in the name, while Olympic's rings will also be used. The new Olympic will be freed of the old Olympic's debts. The number of jobs at the airline is supposed to shrink from 8000 to 1000 workers.

Despite all predictions, traffic for Olympic in 2007 increased, carrying a total of 5,977,104 passengers (3,115,521 in domestic and 2,681,583 in international flights) as opposed to approximately 5,500,000 passengers in 2006. It is estimated that OA earned approximately 780 million euro in 2007, 500 of which came from international flights.

In 2008 due to lack of aircraft Olympic airlines has cancelled or merged a significant number of flights, about 6,000 according to its own union (as of August 26 2008). Olympic airways officials have declared that this is not the major problem since "after all the income reduction is only 4-5 million euros compared to the initial budget plan".

Olympic Airways Group of Companies (April 1957 - December 2003)

By December 2003, the Olympic Airways Group of Companies owned Olympic Airways (Ολυμπιακή Αεροπορία), Olympic Aviation (Ολυμπιακή Αεροπλοϊα), Macedonian Airlines (Mακεδονικές Αερογραμμές), Galileo Hellas (Γαλιλλαίος Ελλάς), Olympic Fuel Company (Ολυμπιακή Εταιρεία Καυσίμων), and Olympic Into-Plane Company. Olympic Catering had been sold a few months earlier. A company formed in the 80s called Olympic AirTours (Ολυμπιακή Τουριστική) had already been transformed into Macedonian Airlines.

Incidents and accidents

  • October 29, 1959: Douglas Aircraft Company DC-3 crashed near Athens, Greece. All 15 passengers and all 3 crew members perished
  • December 8, 1969: Douglas DC-6 crashed near Keratea, Athens, Greece. All 85 passengers and all 5 crew members perished
  • February 18, 1972: Olympic Aviation Learjet crashed off the coast of Monte Carlo. Both crew members were killed.
  • October 21, 1972: NAMC YS-11 crashed off the coast of Voula, Athens, Greece. Thirty six passengers and 1 crew member drowned, while 16 passengers and 3 crew members were rescued.
  • November 23, 1976: NAMC YS-11 crashed near Kozani, Greece. All 46 passengers and 4 crew members perished.
  • August 3, 1989:Olympic Aviation Shorts 330 crashed near Samos Airport, Greece. All 31 passengers and 3 crew members were killed.
  • January 4, 1998: Dr. Abid Hanson , a passenger on Olympic Airways Flight 417 from Cairo to Athens to New York City, who had a history of sensitivity to secondhand smoke requested a non-smoking seat prior. When the family boarded the aircraft in Athens, the people found that the assigned seats were three rows ahead of the economy class smoking area; there was no partition between the smoking and non-smoking section. The family requested a seat further away from the smoking section. The crew did not move the passenger to any of the 11 other unoccupied seats on the aircraft. The passenger felt a reaction to the smoke and died several hours later The case resulted in the legal case Olympic Airways v. Husain, .



The Olympic Airlines fleet consists of the following aircraft (as of 8 September 2008) :
Olympic Airlines Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers Routes Registrations Notes
Airbus A300-600R 1 SX-BEM Stored
Airbus A340-300 4 295 Long Haul
Europe (London and Paris), North America (Montreal, New York, Toronto) and South Africa
SX-DFA / DFB / DFC / DFD Owned by O.A.
ATR 42-320 6 50 Short Haul
Domestic and Island services
SX-BIA / BIB / BIC / BID / BIM / BIN 4 owned by O.A.,
2 leased from ATR Asset Management
ATR 72-202 7 68 Short Haul
Domestic and Island services. Also flights to the Balkans
SX-BIE / BIF / BIG / BIH / BII / BIK / BIL Owned by O.A.
Boeing 737-300 4 Short and Medium haul
Domestic, Europe and Middle East
EC-JTV, EC-KHI, SX-BLC, SX-BLD two aircraft are leased from Hola Airlines
Boeing 737-400 15 150 Short and Medium haul
Domestic, Europe and Middle East
SX-BKA / BKB / BKC / BKD / BKE / BKF / BKG / BKH / BKI / BKM / BKN / BKT / BKU / BKX / BMC 7 owned by O.A. (BKA-BKG),
4 leased from ILFC (BKH-BKI, BKN, BKT),
1 leased from Aviation Capital Group (BKM),
1 leased from Oasis International Leasing (BMC)
De Havilland Canada Dash 8-100 4 37 Short Haul
Domestic and Island services
SX-BIO / BIP / BIQ / BIR Owned by O.A.
Total 41
Updated: September 2008

Previously operated

Olympic Airlines has previously operated the following fleet:
Olympic Airlines/Airways Retired Fleet
Aircraft Total Passengers Routes Registrations Notes
Douglas DC-3 14 28 Short haul
Domestic and Balkans
SX - BAA / BAC / BAD / BAE / BAG / BAH / BAK / BAL / BAN / BBA / BBC / BBD / BBE / BBF Owned by O.A. (previously flew with TAE Greek National Airlines)
Douglas DC-4 2 Short and medium haul
Domestic and Europe
Douglas DC-6 13 66 (1958), 95 (1967) Short and medium haul
Domestic and Europe
SX - DAD / DAE / DAF / DAH / DAI / DAM / DAP / DAQ / DAR / DAS, F - BGSK / BGTY / BGTZ 10 owned by O.A. (DAD - DAS), 3 leased from U.A.T. (BGSK, BGTY, BGTZ)
DeHavilland Comet 4B 6 147 (1966), 165 (1968) Medium haul
Europe, Middle East
SX - DAK / DAL / DAN (first G-APZM) / DAO (first G-ARDI), G -ARJL / APMC 2 leased from BEA (BEA-OLYMPIC) (ARJL, APMC), 4 owned by O.A. (DAK, DAL, DAN, DAO)
Boeing 707-320 8 147 (1966), 165 (1968) Long and medium haul
Europe, North America, Africa, Australia
SX - DBA / DBB / DBC / DBD / DBE / DBF / DBO / DBP Owned by O.A.
Boeing 717-200 3 105 Short and Medium haul
Greece and Europe
SX - BOA / BOB / BOC 2 leased from Bavaria (BOA, BOB), 1 leased from Pembroke Capital (BOC)
Boeing 720-051B 7 160 Short and medium haul
Domestic, Europe and Middle East
SX - DBG / DBH / DBI / DBK / DBL / DBM / DBN Owned by O.A.
Boeing 727-30 2 Short and Medium haul
Domestic, Europe and Middle East
N9233Z, N9234Z Leased from Boeing
Boeing 727-200 10 146 Short and Medium haul
Domestic, Europe and Middle East
SX - CBA / CBB / CBC / CBD / CBE / CBF / CBG / CBH / CBI, ZS - NZV 9 owned by O.A. (CBA - CBI), 1 leased from Safair (NZV)
Boeing 737-200 15 123 Short and Medium haul
Greece and Europe
SX - BCA / BCB / BCC / BCD / BCE / BCF / BCG / BCH / BCI / BCK / BCL, N321XV, N322XV, N501AV, N505AV 4 leased from Aviation Sales Company, 11 owned by O.A. (BCA - BCL)
Boeing 737-300 5 138 Short and Medium haul
Domestic, Europe and Middle East
EC - IFV / IOR / JQX / JTV, SX - BLA 5 leased from Hola Airlines (IFV, IOR, JQX, JTV), 1 leased from Boullioun Aviation (BLA)
Boeing 737-400 5 150 Short and Medium haul
Domestic, Europe and Middle East
SX - BMA / BMB / BKK / BKL, EC - KBO 1 leased from Hola Airlines (KBO), 1 leased from Pembroke Capital (BMA), 1 leased from Oasis International Leasing (BMB), 1 leased from ILFC (BKK), 1 leased from GECAS (BKL)
Boeing 747-100 1 Long haul
North America, Africa, Australia, Asia
EI - BRR Leased from GPA in 1986
Boeing 747-200 5 426 Long haul
North America, Africa, Australia, Asia
SX - OAA / OAB / OAC / OAD / OAE, TF - ARO 5 owned by O.A. (OAA - OAE), 1 leased from Air Atlanta for the 2004 Olympic Torch Relay (ARO)
Britten Norman BN2 Islander 15 9 Short haul
Domestic and Island services
NAMC YS-11 10 64 Short haul
Domestic and Island services
SX - BBG / BBH / BBI / BBJ / BBK / BBL / BBM / BBP / BBQ / BBR 8 Owned by O.A., 2 leased from NAMC (BBJ, BBM)
Dornier Do 228 9 18 Short haul
Domestic and Island services
SX - BHA / BHB / BHC / BHD / BHE / BHF / BHG / BHH / BHI 2 leased from Dornier (BHA - BHB), 7 owned by O.A. (BHC - BHI)
Shorts 330 6 30 Short haul
Domestic and Island services
SX - BGA / BGB / BGC / BGD / BGE / BGF Owned by O.A.
Shorts Skyvan 4 18 Short haul
Domestic and Island services
SX - BBN / BBO / BBT / BBW 2 owned by O.A. (BBN, BBO), 2 leased (BBT, BBW)

Naming of O.A. Aircraft

Naming of the aircraft of Olympic Airways (and now Olympic Airlines) is as follows:

Aircraft Registrations

The registration of all Olympic aircraft is a two-letter Greek prefix SX- and three more letters. The first of the three letters shows the number of engines (B: Two engines, C: Three engines, D: Four engines). The second letter shows the type of the aircraft (A: Douglas DC-3, etc.) and the third is the number of the aircraft in letters. Some exceptions are the Boeing 747 (where the first two letters are the IATA designator of Olympic: OA) and the Learjet 25 SX-ASO (which stands for Onassis' initials: Aristotle Socrates Onassis)

Corporate Design

The Logo of Olympic

According to the Olympic Airways archives, the first logo of the airline was a white eagle, bearing much resemblance to a propeller, featuring five rings and the name Olympic. Just two years after the first flight, Onassis asked his associates to design a new logo and the coloured rings were created. Onassis wanted to copy the five coloured rings of the Olympic emblem, but the International Olympic Committee claimed the rights to the emblem, so a new, six ring logo was introduced. The first five rings stand for the five continents, while the sixth stands for Greece. Colours used were yellow, red, blue and white.


  • The Olympic name came as a result of Onassis' passion for ancient Greece. Many of his companies carried the Olympic name such as Olympic Maritime. He followed the same naming pattern for his ships (with names such as "Olympic Legacy", "Olympic Palm", "Olympic Explorer", etc.)
  • According to OA regulations, all male flight attendants must wear a black tie, thus paying tribute to the late Alexander Onassis.
  • Uniforms for OA flight attendants were created by fashion designers, such as Jean Desses (1957), Coco Chanel (1966) and Pierre Cardin (1969) and, later, Greek fashion designer Billy Bo (Μπίλλυ Μπο).


External links

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