Olympic-size headaches for bizav

 - April 2, 2007, 10:32 AM

Greek aviation officials have at last started to release slots and aircraft parking positions for business aviation traffic heading for next month’s Athens Olympic Games–months after busting their own deadlines for filing landing requests. At the new Athens International Airport, some 50 parking spaces have been set aside for head-of-state aircraft. Some of these positions are expected to be released for corporate use–with official Olympic sponsors being given preference–but it is still unclear when and how this will happen.

Local FBOs only last month started getting confirmation of which alternate airports their corporate clients will be able to use, having filed landing requests, as requested by the Greek government, before the end of January. Many business aircraft crews will be dropping off their passengers in Athens, before repositioning to airports such as Mikonos and Limnos to park during their company’s visit to the games.

Despite the inconvenience, crews have at least been assured of hotel bookings at a time when accommodations anywhere close to the Greek capital is almost impossible to find. One Athens FBO manager told AIN that the rates being demanded by hotels in and around the capital are–even by the standards of major international sporting events–a “disgraceful rip off.” Four-star hotels have reportedly been demanding minimum bookings of a week or more at rates in excess of $1,000 per night per room.

As of mid-June, Athens Aviation Services account manager Jitte Boutens said that her FBO had been able to get confirmed parking for 46 aircraft. However, she warned that the situation regarding landing slots to drop off passengers in Athens has been worsening as the games approach. Initially, slot requests had been granted, with variations from the preferred time of just 15 minutes. More recently, deviations of one to four hours have been the norm.

By July 10 the new general aviation terminal is expected to open at Athens. The 3,550-sq-ft building is conveniently located next to ramp Golf, but most visiting aircraft will have to use the much more remote Foxtrot ramp or surrounding taxiways.