Τετάρτη, 2 Σεπτεμβρίου 2015

Chronicle of a Death Foretold!

Justine Frangouli-Argyris
 
The legitimate grievances and protests of the stranded passengers of SkyGreece, the recently established, Greek-based air carrier, on the social and other media of Canada and Greece causes me deep sadness and much disappointment.

Sadness because SkyGreece failed in its efforts to establish itself as the national carrier of the Greek Diaspora in North America and in such a short period of time and even though it had even begun to even draw passengers from the Balkan countries surrounding Greece.

Frustration because the company that seems to have ceased operations as a result of financial difficulties was not able to rise to the occasion and meet its obligation to some 1,000 passengers who were left without any means of coming back to Canada. Indeed, the return of the last individuals back home would have closed, in a most dignified manner, the company's debt to its traveling public and reinforced its much ballyhooed reputation for good service, and this, through the most difficult of times.

SkyGreece began as a promising startup back in 2012 when the company’s investors acquired their first airplane. Both the Hellenic name and the Greek flag on its tail instilled a proud feeling amongst the Greek Diaspora which had been clamoring for the start of a new carrier to cover the gap left over by the demise of Greece’s national carrier, Olympic Airways.

The predominant role played by its CEO, the well-known and respected Fr. Nicholas Alexandris, in the company’s public relations was paramount in ensuring good faith as to the sincerity of SkyGreece’s intentions.

Personally, knowing some of the Greek-Canadian investors who had a solid track record of success in the tourism industry for years, I felt that, surely, the time was ripe for this Greek-centered investment to flourish.

When SkyGreece inaugurated its routes in the spring of 2015, I was convinced that the operation was on sound footing and that a positive outlook of its future development was a given. As such, on my journey to Greece this past June, I opted for SkyGreece in order to experience, firsthand, everything that had to do with the quality of the nascent airline’s services.

The trip to and from Athens was excellent. The pilots, mostly former captains of Olympic Airways, commanded the plane with deft smoothness, showcasing their exceptional flying abilities.  The flight crew was young, always smiling and ever so quick to provide excellent service. Although not an aficionado of airline fare, the menu, developed around Greek recipes, more than met all my expectations.

Suddenly, last June, very shortly after SkyGreece had begun to solidify its reputation and fill its planes, the closure of Greece’s banks as a result of the country’s prolonged negotiations with its lenders began to quickly asphyxiate the newly established company.  With its registry in Greece and, as a result, access to its funds limited and with overseas bills to pay, the end quickly approached.

Greece’s capital controls resulted in the company being late in remitting payment for its landing rights at Canadian airports and led to the eventual immobilization of the company’s single airplane at Toronto’s Pearson airport. Regardless, the company’s main shareholder, Ken Stathakis, insists that SkyGreece has not gone into bankruptcy and, that, despite its difficulties, will survive.

As a Greek-Canadian journalist, I sincerely wish that SkyGreece resumes operations by managing to overcome the obstacles of its current state of affairs and begins anew as a more stable organization.

I believe that the significant sums invested in securing the company's itineraries should not go to waste but must be exploited to the benefit of all Greek expatriates and, in turn, the Greek tourism industry at large.

I, who has witnessed the shuttering of other major air carriers plying the non-stop route to Greece every summer, confess that SkyGreece, albeit during its brief period of operation excelled and, this, under intense pressure from a slew of competitors. Undoubtedly, the capital controls along with the instability of Greece’s economy and the political uncertainty surrounding the country did not help the promising company.

Regardless, I am hopeful that the carrier is able to compensate its weary passengers and learn from its missteps. I, for one, hereby declare that I will reboard SkyGreece once again next year should operations resume!