Aegean Airlines adds Thessaloniki-Tbilisi direct service amid a solid performance in 2022.
COVID-19 was a significant disruption for the worldwide aviation industry. It changed several logics that had been steering the management of airlines and airports for years. One of the main takeaways of the pandemic was how vital leisure demand can be to boost traffic and, therefore, revenues. Many airlines have learned this vital lesson, including Greece’s largest carrier, Aegean Airlines.
Aegean Airlines to open new route amid strong 2022 performance
Aegen Airlines, Greece’s largest airline, is experiencing a moment of solid growth. After a highly positive 2022, the carrier is furthering its expansion plans by adding a new route to its network.
Starting May 22nd, the airline will fly between Thessaloniki (SKG) and the capital of Georgia, Tbilisi (TBS). Aegean will operate this route twice weekly, on Tuesdays and Fridays, until October 5th. The addition of the direct service between Thessaloniki and Tbilisi will strengthen Aegean presence in the Georgian market after the carrier has been operating direct flights from Athens (ATH) since June 2012.
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Leisure demand steering Aegean Airlines’ solid financial figures
In the post-pandemic era, leisure demand is making a difference for airlines trying to recover from the most significant crisis ever experienced. Not only are carriers serving mainly tourist markets recovering faster, but they are, in some cases, doing better than the pre-pandemic period, as is the case for Greece’s largest carrier, Aegean Airlines.
Greece is traditionally a leisure market, one defined by solid profits during the summer months and losses during winter. However, in 2022, Aegean Airlines reported not only an excellent third quarter but a positive fourth quarter as well. More precisely, the Greek carrier reported a staggering 29% operating margin for the third quarter covering the summer months, one of the highest figures for any airline worldwide. The last quarter of 2022 was not as exceptional as the third one but still ensured Aegean a 2% operating margin. This is an excellent result for the carrier, which usually expects winter months to be characterized by a loss.
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At Athens International Airport, Greece’s largest aviation market, and Aegean’s primary hub, the passenger volume for the third quarter was 2% lower than the 2019 figures. However, other Greek airports reported passenger figures well above the pre-pandemic year. For instance, Rhodes, the largest among the Greek islands’ airports, reported a 14% traffic increase compared to 2019. Corfu, Crete, and Santorini reported double-digit passenger numbers growth as well. Notwithstanding Aegean’s solid performance in its third quarter, the carrier’s capacity was negatively affected by Aegean’s suspension of operations in Ukraine and Russia. Notably, Aegean’s seat capacity shrunk by 3% in the fourth quarter of last year compared to 2019.
Based on the carrier’s solid performance in 2022, Aegean expects an exceptionally solid 2023. According to the Greek carrier, booking figures for the following summer are encouraging. However, Aegean will not be the only carrier trying to make the most of the 2023 Greece-bound leisure demand. Aegean has to face competition from another expanding Greek airline, Sky Express; Ryanair is the largest foreign carrier in the country, while other strong competitors that will bet big time on Greece next summer include easyJet, Wizz Air, Jet2, and Eurowings.
Aegean to bet on the Airbus A320neo
According to ch-aviation, Aegean currently operates a fleet of 46 Airbus A320 family aircraft. However, the carrier’s fleet strategy is progressively introducing more neos aircraft.
By the start of the summer operations, Aegean plans to have 26 Airbus A320neos operative, along with 32 prior-generation Airbus A320s. By the end of 2026, Aegean aims to almost double the number of neos in the fleet, for a total of 46. According to the carrier’s management, the advantages of the neo for the airline include lower operating costs, a better product for the passengers, more high-yield business class seats, and enhanced range.
Photo: Markus Mainka/Shutterstock
The improved range could be critical for Aegean Airlines to further its network expansion strategy. Indeed, a more extended range could enable the carrier to add more destinations in the Middle East. Introducing the direct service between Thessaloniki and Tbilisi reflects Aegean’s interest in the Middle Eastern market, where the carrier already offers flights to Amman, Beirut, Jeddah, Riyadh, and Tel Aviv. Leveraging Greece’s favorable location near continental Europe, Aegean could channel Middle Eastern traffic via its hub in Athens to its European destinations, developing what could be defined as a “short/medium-haul hub & spoke” model.
Aegean’s additional achievements in 2022
You might say that 2022 was an exceptional year for Aegean Airlines, and you would not be wrong. Besides reporting a solid financial performance, expanding its network, and furthering its fleet renovation strategy, Aegean also has other achievements to boast about.
The largest Greek carrier has indeed already repaid all loans received from banks to face the disastrous effects of COVID-19 three years before their maturity. Additionally, Aegean has plans to buy back the ownership rights previously acquired by the Greek government to provide financial aid during the pandemic. Aegean Airlines has also made steps forward in its environmental strategy: in 2022, the carrier reduced CO2 emissions by 9% compared to 2019.
Photo: Markus Mainka/Shutterstock
Looking forward, Aegean is focused on making the most of the next summer season, with scheduled seats for the second quarter of 2023 already up 3% compared to 2019.
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