Greece: Making a Comeback
Even before touching down in Greece for the first time in many yers, I noticed several positive developments. From the air you can see a shift towards renewable energy - gigantic windmills and solar farms competing for space with bucolic olive groves.
At Athens International Airport, Aegean Airlines is now the dominant tenant. The state-run Olympic Airlines is just a shadow of its past, allowing Aegean to prosper into a professionally-run regional carrier, sporting a dedicated fleet of single aisle Airbus jets. The last time I transited through here I noticed several gas guzzling Airbus A340 jets owned by Olympic - most of them sitting idle on the tarmac. A glaring symbol of excess and inefficiency.
If Aegean is an example of a Greece determined to recover from the precipice of bankruptcy then the country could be in for a bright future. Flights arrive and depart on time, staff are cheerful and professional and the aircraft and lounges sporting a new look. Coming from Cairo you immediately notice that most of the frontline positions (including immigration) are staffed by young, cheerful women.
In the international terminal there is a discernible buzz, with business and leisure travellers strolling through one of Europe’s more user-friendly airports.
The growth in international arrivals continues at pace, with an average growth rate of 12.8 percent in the first nine months of 2018.
A public and private initiative is underway to spruce up the main gateway of Athens into a leading European destination. This includes a crackdown on lawlessness, and cleaning up the streets. The aim is to create a “Berlin of our time.”
Recently, the Greek people, known for their hospitality, received impressive recognition from the family of the late US Senator John McCain. The people of the island of Lesbos were awarded the first annual John McCain Prize for Leadership in Public Service for their heroic support of refugees fleeing mayhem in the Middle East and Africa.
Greece isn’t entirely out of the woods just yet but even a short transit stop gives one hope for the future.