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Greek airports sell-off gets the green light

- by Andy Cornish

The sell-off of many of the Greek Islands airports used by UK holidaymakers has been given the green light.

The Greek government has finally ratified contracts with a German-Greek consortium to run 14 of its regional and island airports.

The airports included in the contracts are on the of Crete, Corfu, Kefalonia, Kos, Mykonos, Mytilini, Rhodes, Samos, Santorini, Skiathos and Zakynthos. They also cover three mainland airports at Thessaloniki, Aktion and Kavala.

More than 23 million passengers passed through the airports in 2015 with around 70% flying in for Greek islands holidays.

The 2015 figures were a 6% rise on the year before and are fully expected to go even higher this year.

Greece agreed a €1.2 billion deal with German airport operator Fraport to take over the management of the facilities earlier this year.

The deal is part of a privatisation program aimed at building up the cash-strapped Greek economy and helping to pay off the country's bailout loans.

Fraport, along with the Copelouzos Greek energy group, was granted a 40-year lease to run the regional airports which have been state-owned ever since they were built.

Under the terms of the deal, the German-led consortium has two years to upgrade and renovate existing airports and four years to develop new buildings and other extensions.

UK package holiday firms still don't know if the deal will lead to higher airport charges and an eventual hike in fares to Greek holiday tourists.

Supporters day the move will increase airport income, create jobs and boost local island economies as well as providing better facilities and a faster tourist throughput.

But the sell-off is not without its critics who complain at the disposal of valuable state assets. On Crete, there were protest demonstrations at the loss of the profitable airport at Chania.

Fraport has promised to invest €300 million in improvements to the Greek island airports over the first four years of the deal.

"We are convinced that our engagement in Greece will act as a catalyst for the growth of the country's vital tourism sector," said Alexander Zinell, Fraport Greece's CEO in response to the Greek government's ratification of the deal.