Hellenic Imperial to Launch Athens - New York

The long-held ambitions of Hellenic Imperial Airways to enter the transatlantic market will come to fruition next month when it inaugurates flights between Athens and New York’s John F Kennedy International Airport.  The carrier has acquired two Airbus A340-300s for its expansion into the scheduled market and these are both due for delivery next month.  These were formerly operated by Gulf Air and will retain the carrier’s three class interior, with 8 First Class sleeper seats, 24 lie-flat Business Class seats and 217 Economy seats.

The New York – Athens route was previously operated by Olympic Airways, however after two major changes to its operational structure, the service was dropped in favour of a codeshare with US carrier Delta Air Lines.  As the table below illustrates, the US airline now serves the market on a daily basis, while Continental Airlines also offers a daily link to Newark Liberty International Airport.

NETWORK ANALYSIS: ATHENS – NEW YORK (non-stop weekly flights, bi-directional O&D traffic)






Estimated pax

Continental Airlines


Newark Liberty International




Delta Air Lines


New York JFK












An estimated 181,000 O&D passengers travelled between Athens and New York in the past year.  With direct services Delta Air Lines and Continental Airlines dominate the traffic, although Olympic Air also holds an 11.3 per cent share, with more than 21,000 passengers believed to have booked Delta flights via the Greek carrier’s code.  This loyalty to the local carrier, as well as a large amount of leakage via other European hubs, will be key markets for Hellenic Imperial to build its own traffic on the route.

Hellenic Imperial plans to launch the Athens – New York sector on June 24 and Athens International Airport’s Director, Communications & Marketing, Ioanna Papadopoulou confirmed to The HUB that it was working with the carrier to support its expansion. 

“It is with great pleasure that we welcome again long-haul services from a Greek carrier, although Hellenic Imperial will be operating in a competitive market, we feel the airline has the skills to succeed due to the vast Greek-American community that exists there.  We at Athens International Airport, in line with our commitment towards our airline partners, will provide all those marketing tools in order to support the success of the operations and assist them in achieving the greatest awareness possible both in the local and in the North American market.”

Alongside New York, Hellenic Imperial plans to serve a number of other international markets.  To maintain utilisation of the A340s, it plans to offer a weekly service to London Gatwick and three times weekly flights to Dubai and Kuwait City.  In the longer-term it will add two Airbus A321s to its fleet to operate these flights and free up the widebodied aircraft to launch further long-haul services.  

The Hellenic Civil Aviation Authority has already designated the company as the nominated Greek carrier to operate to Johannesburg, Dubai, Beirut, Havana, Kuwait, Bahrain, Melbourne and Manila and additional cities are on the airline’s radar, growing potentially to up to 30 potential destinations by the end of 2012.  In the next phase of its growth its target markets are Syria (Damascus), Romania (Bucharest), Morocco (Casablanca), Saudi Arabia (Jeddah), Switzerland (Geneva), Canada (Toronto and Montreal) and France (Lyon, Marseille), with destinations in the Far East and Australia also under consideration.

Although Hellenic Imperial is new to the scheduled market it has a lot of experience in the Aircraft, Crew, Maintenance and Insurance (ACMI) leasing sector as one of the few European airlines providing large capacity aircraft to the market on short- and long-term contracts.  It was established as a subsidiary of Jordanian-registered Air Universal in May 2006; the former had originally planned to establish a base on the Mediterranean island of Cyprus but eventually selected Eleftherios Venizelos International airport in Athens as its operational headquarters.  It began operations with a single former Lufthansa B747-200, offering ACMI contracts to airlines and charter brokers before expanding its fleet to the four of the type it now operates.

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