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The “success story” of Ioannina Airport: The Scandinavians and the new goals

Νίκος Καραγιάννης

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If one were to talk about an authentic success story, Ioannina Airport would be an ideal candidate. If we go a little back in time when the regional airports were being aggregated for their concession, the airport of Epirus was excluded due to lack of interest.

Another important reason was that within a relatively small radius, there were two other airports, Corfu and Aktio, both with greater prospects as they serve islands with high traffic in the summer and are more connected to well-known, international travel agencies as well as charter flights. An that is why Ioannina Airport’s future was finally left to fate.

However, apart from its exclusion, it had to deal with an upgrade project which had started in 2008 but was dragging on from year to year and which, having been funded, during the crisis, exclusively by the Public Investments Programme, and showing an obvious inability to be completed.

So the status that one had to face was an somehow marooned airport, in a corner of the country, without real traffic and with ongoing, never-ending projects.

In addition, it had to deal with the fear of the newly constructed Ionian Motorway, which would further cut off even its limited interior traffic. It was an airport without prospects.

A change of course

The change of course for the airport of Epirus, happened thanks to the efforts of the Region, the local bodis and the administration of the airport.

With almost zero traffic, they managed to attract one of the largest tourist groups in Europe, Apollo, which was looking for new destinations. Apollo was convinced to start, initially trial routes from areas of Scandinavia, such as Stockholm and Copenhagen.

An important factor in attracting Apollo was the Union of Hoteliers of Epirus, which created special packages not only for Ioannina but also for the surrounding areas, i.e. Metsovo, Zagorochoria and others.

The key point as pointed out to ypodomes.com by the Airport Manager, Mr. Vassilis Mitsimaris, was the cheap attractive tariff and the virtues of the area, which until then remained a virgin tourist destination. At the same time, the internal route Athens-Ioannina, by Aegean Airlines, remained stable.

“The experiment was successful,” he commented. Then there were other flights, and by March, when the pandemic froze all airports around the world, the airport’s increase in passenger traffic was significant, creating the conditions for a destination that has the ability to provide tourist services all year round.

The upgrade of the airport (even though more limited in relation to the original plan) was completed last year. There is now a new terminal that basically meets the needs of passenger traffic.

One problem that arises during the summer months when the traffic increases considerably is the lack of sufficient space in the arrivals area.

The new goals

Taking into account that the plans may pushed back due to the pandemic, but given the potential of the destination, the airport of Ioannina is the focus of the plans of the bodies and the regional administration. The airport now serves all of Epirus and the southern part of Albania.

One of the challenges is the connection to the german market says Mr. Mitsimaris; Ioannina is not only a tourist destination but a city with a university and two hospitals, which could also attract people who would see the area as a place to stay.

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