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Fri 19 Dec 2008 04:00 AM

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Good sport

Jan Metsovitis, director of the Aviation Business Unit at Athens International Airport explains how airports should cope with extra travellers attracted to the region by sporting events.

Jan Metsovitis, director of the Aviation Business Unit at Athens International Airport explains how airports should cope with extra travellers attracted to the region by sporting events.

The Emirates Rugby Sevens event saw fans and teams flocking to Dubai. When Athens hosted the Olympics eight years ago, how were airport operations affected?

When the Olympic Games took place we had a new airport so we didn't have to change much as far as the infrastructure was concerned.

Special coordination meetings were needed between the airport and ground handlers to find out how their operations and our operations could better work together. We found the key to success was to resume normal operations despite the additional volume in passengers.

How was this achieved?

The Olympics brought with it special procedures, but we didn't want to mix normal operations with these procedures. This would have complicated the entire strategy and made it less efficient.

It was the same scenario with the Champions League Final in 2007. Procedures were put in place to handle the overlay, such as parking of aircraft, passenger flow and landside traffic. Any sporting event will bring with it fans and teams, but everyday passengers are not interested in this. They just want to travel through the airport in comfort.

Does the same principle apply to handling seasonal passenger traffic?

Well yes, but to be honest, Athens airport does not see a huge rise or drop in movements according to the season. In the winter we plan for 500 movements per day and in the summer, around 650 movements per day. Saying that, we always plan for summer well in advance.

We assess what new flights will be scheduled and also work closely with the police to clarify procedures at immigration control, to ensure a speedy service for travellers.

In terms of technology, how has Athens International evolved?

The Aviation Business Unit is responsible for passenger check-in and we were early installers of Common Use Self Service (CUSS) terminal equipment through an agreement with SITA. We are now looking at how we provide this technology and we recently installed web check-in desks to enable self-service through the airlines' websites.

What are the benefits of CUSS technology?

It has helped us to better use the capacity space within the airport's terminal. It hasn't altered the layout, but we have learned to better use what we have. Web check-in technology is situated at the entrances to the terminal and the stations are clearly marked. The Greek population is not particularly ‘technology-friendly', but uptake is accelerating.

We are telling the airlines they need to do more to promote this, but we also support the airlines by marketing self check-in through various avenues, like newspaper advertising.

As Athens remains a key destination for sporting events, what do you see as your challenges over the next two years or so?

Fundamentally, preserving and improving services. The substance of the airport is good, but we are always looking at ways to minimise delays and improve baggage delivery.

At present, passengers experience very little queuing time and we are always working to maintain this. Another key area for us to consider is business aviation. We have seen significant growth in this market - it has doubled over the last eight years - and this calls for dedicated equipment and facilities and an efficient service approach.

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