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The National Herald Prints AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis’ Letter
September 30, 2005—No. 86 (202) 785-8430

The National Herald Prints AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis’ Letter

Washington, DC—On September 30, 2005, The National Herald published AHI Executive Director Nick Larigakis’ letter to the editor, responding to an editorial article entitled, “Olympic’s kiss of death?” The text of the letter appears below, followed by The National Heraldarticle to which the letter responds.

September 22, 2005

The Editor
The National Herald

Dear Editor:

Regarding, your editorial, “Olympic’s kiss of death.” Olympic is not just a bunch of planes that are comprised of nuts and bolts. It is the extension of Greece and what she represents to the Four Corners of the world. It is Greece’s “good will ambassador” every time an Olympic plane touches down in a foreign destination. For a country the size of Greece this is imperative. It is also the very important link that connects many of the Diaspora with Greece. And this is especially important in America.

How many of us over the years had flown back and forth to Greece with planes like “Olympic Flame,” “Olympic Spirit,” and “Olympic Eagle?” For many, these were not just planes. They transcended beyond the flying machines that they were. We still remember them today.

I don’t think that anyone disagrees that Olympic has been mismanaged over the years and as such was destined for economic disaster. Who’s at fault? Well, let’s just say that Olympic is a perfect example of why no government should be managing an entity that is better suited for the private sector.

The all-important question now, however, is where do you go from here? Well, that is relatively simple, since the Greek government can’t maintain it and since they have signed into an MOU with a consortium of Greek American investors, they should proceed with the sale of the airline immediately! The other option is to let the airline continue on this course, of which its ultimate destination will be to shut down within a few months, effectively putting the last death nail into Olympic. Projected costs to the Greek State to phase-out the airline by some estimates could reach 200 million euros.

Greece cannot afford for that to happen, economically or for its national interests!

And what about Greece’s tourism industry? It’s ridiculous to think of a country promoting its tourism without having a carrier to identify with. Is Greece going to depend on foreign carriers to serve its needs? I noticed that the National Herald had solicited advertisement space on the back page that promoted tourism to Greece. On the lower right hand corner of the ad is the Olympic logo.

The editorial also claims that “…perhaps it’s better to fly on an airline (other than Olympic) where you feel welcome and appreciated…”

Please tell me which airline does that in today’s less than customer friendly airline industry?

At the end of the day, the choice is a stark one: either support an enterprise that is good for Greece or simply turn your back to it to the detriment of us all.


Nick Larigakis 
Executive Director
American Hellenic Institute

The opinions in this letter are only that of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of American Hellenic Institute.

The National Herald
September 17, 2005 
Vol. 8, Issue 414 
Page 10

Olympic’s kiss of death?

The European Union ruling demanding that the ailing Greek carrier, Olympic Airlines, must repay several hundred million dollars in illegal aid is like the kiss of death. It is certainly a decision which could cripple the company, if it hasn’t done so already.

Olympic, as is well known, has been an ailing company for many years, even decades. But in the last few decades, it flew out of financial control. It was basically run on autopilot (no pun intended), with the Greek taxpayers footing the bill. The figure given by the Greek Government shows that Olympic is losing more than $1.8 million a day, not an insignificant amount for a country the size of Greece.

How did things go so wrong? How did a company, which was a monopoly for decades, come to be such a big-money loser?

A major portion of the blame belongs to Greek politicians in the past who used it as a rousfeti vehicle—for political patronage. Olympic was overloaded with thousands of employees it did not need, so that the politicians could curry favor with the electorate.

Being run by the Government, employees lost their incentive, not caring particularly either about being on time, or about taking good care of their customers. Thus, most anyone who could fly on another airline, did (even if it cost more), especially the well-to-do and the better educated.

Many half-hearted attempts to rectify problems, or to sell the company, were aborted due to the potentially high political cost. But really, what do you do with a national airline? And who will serve the Greek market?

As to the first question, it can be answered with another question: Does a company which long ago stopped valuing and respecting its customers deserve to survive?

As to the second question, in a free market, these kinds of dilemmas ultimately do not exist. Another company, or some individual, will recognize the opportunity to make money, and then move to fill the void.

And so, perhaps it’s better to fly on an airline where you feel welcomed and appreciated than in one where sometimes even simple things, like getting a glass of water from a steward or stewardess, is looked upon as a big deal.


For additional information, please contact Georgia Economou at (202) 785-8430 or For general information regarding the activities of AHI, please view our Web site at