The Greek parliament has given the go-ahead for the restructuring of beleaguered Olympic Airways, prompting an inquiry by the European Commission into whether the plans complies with EU laws on state aid.
Parliament voted by 52 votes to 46 to break up the state airline and pass its flight operations to a new, streamlined, debt-free carrier, which it hopes would prove attractive to potential investors. According to the Greek government, the move is the only way to save the carrier from bankruptcy and ensure Greece has a national airline operating at next year’s Olympic Games in Athens.
The new carrier, to be known as Olympic Airlines, will employ just 1,800 staff, with the rest of the current 6,100 workforce staying with the old company, which will continue as a ground services provider.
But the EU’s executive arm wants to ensure that Greece’s plans comply with regulations preventing member states from bailing out their airlines.
‘To decide that, we need to have the official texts on what is happening, that is why [transport commissioner] Loyola de Palacio has decided to send Greece in the coming days a disclosure order,’ said Commission spokesman Gilles Gantelet. Athens will have 20 days from receipt of the letter to answer or face prosecution.
The restructuring plans have also met with opposition from unions. Last week, a court ruled that a strike planned by flight attendants to protest against the proposals was illegal as Olympic had not been given enough notice. However, some 200 staff still called in sick, resulting in delays and cancellations to the airline’s services from Athens, which affected around 19,000 passengers.