Athens International Airport (AIA) has announced a strategic partnership with Ethiopian Airlines to enhance connectivity with Sub-Saharan Africa. This collaboration opens Greece to a market of nearly 129 million people, with Ioanna Papadopoulou, Director of Communications & Marketing at AIA, lauding the African airline as a “valuable partner” during the presentation of the new alliance yesterday.

Ethiopian Airlines commenced operations in December 2019, just before the pandemic, and despite starting off amidst challenging conditions, it placed its trust in the Athens market. As Papadopoulou highlighted, the African market overall saw a 27% increase in 2023 compared to 2019, and in the first five months of 2024, it recorded a 15% rise compared to the same period in 2019.

Tigist Seyoum, Area Manager of Ethiopian Airlines in Greece, highlighted the airline’s crucial role in strengthening socio-economic ties between Ethiopia and Greece. Currently, Ethiopian Airlines operates four passenger flights between Athens and Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa, facilitating access to Africa. Starting July 1st, a new route will launch from Addis Ababa to Warsaw via Athens, with plans to increase flights to six per week in the winter.

The situation could improve significantly if Ethiopians did not face major hurdles in obtaining Greek visas. According to Michael Flerianos, General Manager for Greece at Gold Star Aviation, which represents Ethiopian Airlines in Athens, many visa applications are rejected by Greek authorities in Addis Ababa due to suspicions that travelers intend to work illegally. He also highlighted the understaffing of visa services and emphasized the potential for developing tourism between Ethiopia and Greece.