An Exclusive Interview with Papadopoulou Ioanna, Director, Communications & Marketing of Athens International Airport
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An Exclusive Interview with Papadopoulou Ioanna, Director, Communications & Marketing of Athens International Airport

Issue 19 - 2023
An Exclusive Interview with Papadopoulou Ioanna, Director, Communications & Marketing of Athens International Airport

Şebnem Akalın: Firstly, thank you for taking the time to join us. Athens International Airport commenced operations 30 years ago. Could you elaborate on the journey that was initiated three decades ago and has led to your current standing?

Papadopoulou Ioanna: First of all, let me sincerely thank you for the opportunity to present Athens International Airport, it is a great honor and a pleasure to be part of this prestigious edition!

It all began in March 2001 with a vision of a dedicated team to create a modern, efficient hub, a gateway to Athens and Greece that would reflect the spirit of our country.

Through continuous investments in infrastructure, technology, route development, airline marketing and customer experience, not only have we met, but we have already exceeded the initially - set goals. Today, we stand as a globally renowned and multi-awarded metropolitan airport, connecting our city and our country with more than 150 destinations to/from more than  50 countries, with routes operated by 65 airlines. Our “journey” is marked by resilience, adaptability, innovation, and a commitment to exceptional service.

Having welcomed more than 360 million passengers and over 4 million flights during the almost-23 years of its operations, the airport keeps creating significant value for the national, regional and local economy, our shareholders, all the stakeholders and the wider public, continuously seeking to enhance the connectivity of Athens, as a sustainable, year-round destination.  

Şebnem Akalın: Athens holds a prominent position as a sought-after destination in Europe for both travelers and airlines alike. I recalled my journey with Turkish Airlines to Athens six years ago and was struck by the accessibility of AIA to the city center, resembling a true city airport. Could you enlighten us on the airport's distinctive attributes, encompassing terminals, dining, and retail areas, as well as other notable amenities?

Papadopoulou Ioanna: I am really glad that you enjoyed your experience at our airport! Athens International Airport takes pride on its seamless multimodal connection to the city, while our facilities are designed based on efficiency, comfort and an easy-to-navigate approach. Our main focus is on catering for the passengers’ needs and wants and this is why a wide range of surveys are being concluded on a daily basis throughout the year, in order to provide useful insights on the products and services that the passengers need and want.

Our diverse dining and retail options aim at showcasing Greek culture and global brands, focusing on continuously enhancing the passenger journey. The airport’s Shopping Centre offers a wide range of choices for passengers and visitors of the airport, featuring more than 150 commercial units across 13,500m², including over 70 brand stores and more than 45 cafes and restaurants. Also, the Reserve & Collect service now allows passengers to order online from the Duty Free stores and pick them up before their flight. 

Additionally, our lounges, our museums, art installations, and cultural events provide a unique and authentic touch. The metropolitan, Athens gateway concept is integral to our identity, enabling travellers to enjoy the best of Athens from the moment they land and to hold close to their hearts and minds the best Athenian memories when they depart. 

Şebnem Akalın: The present momentum of passenger numbers at your airport is remarkable, drawing significant demand for final destination and transit flights. Is this demand subject to seasonal fluctuations, or does it remain consistent throughout the winter months? Could you share insights into the volume of domestic and international flights during the winter season? Moreover, do you have any forthcoming announcements regarding new airline partnerships inaugurating services from AIA?

Papadopoulou Ioanna: If a word could describe Athens International Airport’s course throughout the years, this would be “resilience”. Even during the years of the Greek macroeconomic crisis or during the Covid-19 pandemic, the harshest of all crises in aviation so far, resilience, adaptability and determination to overcome each crisis was embedded to our DNA and our strategy. 

In specific, talking about passenger traffic development, during the first eight months of 2023, the passenger numbers have already demonstrated an increase of 8% approximately versus the respective 2019 levels and a number of spectacular developments have been added to our existing network. Regarding seasonal fluctuations, Athens being mainly a leisure destination, the summer season is indeed the busiest part of the year, with the rest of the year however developing at very good levels. Increasing our airport’s connectivity on a year-round basis and adding new airlines, routes and destinations to the airport’s existing network, is the focus of our multi-awarded and highly sophisticated Route Development and Airline Marketing strategy, which features one of the most comprehensive and innovative incentives’ schemes globally. It is worth mentioning here, that during the most recent years, Destination Marketing has been one of our strategic priorities and an integral part of our Route Development strategy.  Through forging synergies and close cooperation with all aviation and tourism stakeholders, our main aim has been and continues to be, to successfully promote Athens as a city-break, year-round destination.

Şebnem Akalın: AIA caters to a diverse range of travelers, including both business and leisure passengers. With the current operational status featuring two active runways, is this configuration sufficient to accommodate your projected passenger capacity?

Papadopoulou Ioanna: Our dual-parallel runway configuration, together with our non-coordinated status are two attributes highly acknowledged by the operating carriers, while our operational status is being continuously optimized to handle the existing and projected passenger numbers. We continuously assess our infrastructure needs in order to meet capacity & demand, exploring enhancements that are always aligned with our projections. Our focus remains on maintaining high standards of safety, service, and operational excellence.

Şebnem Akalın: This year, AIA achieved the distinction of being awarded the 'Best Airport Award' for 2023. Could you provide us with an overview of the factors contributing to this recognition? Furthermore, what array of services do you extend to your passengers that sets you apart?

Papadopoulou Ioanna: Indeed, we feel deeply honored and humbled and, of course, truly excited with the spectacular first place in the very competitive 25-40 mio pax category during ACI EUROPE Best Airport Awards for 2023! This year our airport received strong praise from the judges for its focus on operational resilience and its bold corporate sustainability and environmental strategy. With an impressive ambition to achieve the Net-Zero goal by 2025 - 25 years ahead of 2050, which is the industry’s set target - AIA’s innovative “ROUTE 2025” project aims to produce clean energy onsite using photovoltaics to cover 100% of the airport’s electricity needs by 2025.

In addition, the efficient and successful handling of the pandemic, as well as the airport’s operational resilience were also recognized and praised. 

Şebnem Akalın: Acknowledging the aviation industry's focus on sustainability, a zero-carbon footprint, and clean technology as the trajectory for the future, could you elaborate on the measures you have undertaken to mitigate your carbon footprint? Are you equipped to facilitate sustainable aviation fuel for partner airlines? Kindly share your approach in this regard.

Papadopoulou Ioanna: Environmental responsibility has always been a corporate, strategic priority for the Airport Company. Through our leading participation in ACI Europe's global industry initiative, Airport Carbon Accreditation, since 2007, we managed to significantly reduce our carbon footprint, and since 2016 to offset all remaining emissions to become the first carbon neutral airport in Greece. 

Following last April's inauguration of our new 16-megawatt photovoltaic park for self-production/self-consumption of clean energy  at the airport, already producing approximately 45% of the electricity the Airport Company’s needs on an annual basis, we took more steps towards our most ambitious goal, the "Route 2025” initiative announced in 2019, aiming at the zeroing of our carbon footprint by 2025, and thus, also contributing to the environmental  and sustainability footprint of our city. 

Furthermore, AIA is engaged in a constant collaborative effort, involving various other stakeholders, to promote sustainable and green air transport. Thus, following an invitation from the European Commission, Athens International Airport is participating along with 22 other partners, airlines, and local authorities, in an ambitious program, Stargate, with the aim of developing innovations and initiatives for a faster transition to greener air transport. Stargate was selected to implement these plans in the coming years, within the framework of the European Green Deal.

Şebnem Akalın: Delving into your strategic roadmap for the forthcoming years, what strategic initiatives are in place to steer the trajectory of Athens International Airport? How do you position AIA within the aviation landscape in the next 10 years?

Papadopoulou Ioanna:Our strategic roadmap is always evolving around creating value to the national, regional and local economy, our shareholders, all stakeholders and the wider public. In practical terms, operating responsibly and sustainably, enhancing the passenger journey, driving innovation and contributing to the enhancement of our city’s connectivity remain always our top priorities 

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