Greece's Aegean Air to grow routes despite downturn

ATHENS Tue Dec 2, 2008 11:10am EST

ATHENS Dec 2 (Reuters) - Greece's largest private carrier, Aegean Airlines (AGNr.AT), said on Tuesday it will expand its European routes next year despite the global downturn, adding it has no interest in the privatisation of Olympic Airlines.

The airline, which has taken a lot of ailing state carrier Olympic's [OLY.UL] market share in recent years, said it will add flights to Brussels, Berlin, Barcelona, Vienna and Venice by next summer on new Airbus EAD.PA A320/321 aircraft.

Aegean's new destinations will complement its recently launched service to Paris, London and Dusseldorf. It said its fleet will number 21 Airbus jets by May as it will take delivery of 10 more aircraft.

"We are implementing our business plan and the expansion of our international network. Having followed a prudent course over the years we have sound foundations to proceed with our growth plans despite the economic slowdown," Aegean's Chief Executive, Dimitris Gerogiannis, told reporters.

He said in the summer of 2009 Aegean's network will number 24 international routes, 23 domestic destinations with more than 200 flights daily.

Aegean is seeking permission from local authorities to begin flights to Istanbul and Tel Aviv. It already flies to Cairo.

The carrier also announced a code sharing deal with Brussels Airlines with flights to the Belgian capital from January. Brussels Airlines with a fleet of 45 aircraft operates about 300 flights daily to European and African destinations.

Asked to comment on the privatisation of Olympic by the Greek government, Gerogiannis said it would be a just another competitor.

"In every market where we fly there is competition, from low cost to national carriers. Competition is a fact of life. Olympic will be one more competitor," Gerogiannis said, adding Aegean had no interest in the new Olympic.

"We took the decision to grow organically and not through acquisitions," he said.

Greece expects non-binding bids for Olympic this month, aiming to conclude the tender by January. The government split the carrier into three units in September and launched tenders to privatise them. (Reporting by George Georgiopoulos; Editing by Andrew Macdonald)

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