Olympic Airlines

Olympic Airlines (Ολυμπιακές Αερογραμμές - OA) is the state-run flag carrier of Greece, employing about 1850 people. The company headquarters are in Athens, Greece.


The Start of Olympic

The story of Olympic Airlines began in 1930, when the state-run airline was created in Greece. This airline was called Icarus but soon went bankrupt, due to financial problems and limited Greek interest in air transport. After the airline went bankrupt G.C.A.T./Ε.Ε.Ε.Σ. (Greek Company for Air Transport/Ελληνική Εταιρεία Εναέριων Συγκοινωνιών) took its place. At the same time, in 1935, a second airline was created, the privately owned T.A.E. (Technical and Aeronautical Exploitations/Τεχνικαί Αεροπορικαί Εκμεταλλεύσεις). Soon after the World War II, in 1947, three airlines were based in Greece: T.A.E., G.A.T./ΕΛΛ.Α.Σ. (Greek Air Transport/ΕΛΛηνικαί Αεροπορικαί Συγκοινωνίαι) and Hellenic Airlines/Α.Μ.Ε. (Αεροπορικαί Μεταφοραί Ελλάδος).

Soon after, in 1951, the poor financial state of all three airlines led to a decision by the Greek state to merge the three airlines into one, Hellenic National Airlines T.A.E. The new airline faced serious financial problems so the government closed it down in 1955. No one was interested in buying the airline so the Hellenic State bought the company back. In July 1956 an agreement was made between the Hellenic State and Greek shipping-magnate Aristotle Onassis, to sell the company. The company flew under the name T.A.E. until the end of the year and for the first few months of 1957, when, on April 6th, 1957, Olympic Airways/Ολυμπιακή Αεροπορία was officially born.

Nonstop from Athens to New York city

Olympic in the 1960s

The new company developed rapidly. In 1960 the first jet aircraft of OA entered into service, the De Havilland Comet 4B. At the same time, Olympic and British airline BEA agreed to create the first codeshare flights. In 1965, Olympic placed its first orders for the new Boeing 707-300 jet aircraft. The first one was delivered in 1966, bearing the name "City of Corinth". The nonstop route Athens - New York City (JFK Airport) was the first to be launched. In 1968, the first routes to Africa were launched and OA received the first Boeing 727-200 jet aircraft. In 1969, OA launched a route to Canada and phased out the Comet 4Bs.

An old Olympic Airways logo

Olympic in the 1970s

In 1970, OA purchased the new NAMC YS-11 turboprop aircraft to replace the aging Douglas DC-3 and Douglas DC-6, used throughout the domestic network of the company. In 1971, Olympic Aviation/Ολυμπιακή Αεροπλοϊα was created, so that the Greek islands could be more efficiently served. In 1972 Greece was linked to Australia for the first time. One of the Boeing 707-300s, called "City of Athens", landed after 20 hours of flight at Sydney airport.

Olympic then purchased its first Boeing 720-051B jet aircraft, predecessors to the Boeing 707, as well as the first Boeing 747-200 OA was also interested in the new supersonic aircraft BAC-Aerospatiale Concorde, and on January 5th, 1973, a Concorde landed at Athens International Airport for a demonstration.

On 22 January 1973, an incident occurred that dramatically changed the future of OA. The death of Aristotle Onassis' son, Alexander, in a plane crash came as a shock to Greek people and marked the beginning of the end for Olympic Airways. A few months later, Onassis sold all of the OA shares to the Greek state and died shortly after, in 1975. In 1976, under the state management, OA purchased the first Boeing 737-200 jet aircraft and created Olympic Catering, which served both OA and foreign airlines. In 1977, in a cost-cutting effort, OA shut down the Australia route, followed by the Canadian one in 1978, when OA also placed its first orders for the new Airbus aircraft, the Airbus A300.