SKY express, part of the IOGR Group, has been operating as a domestic airline since 2005. From the day of its founding, the company has showcased a steadily upward course, which makes it the fastest-growing airline in Greece, as well as one of the fastest-growing carriers in Europe. Its mainly owned fleet (10 ATR 42, ATR 72, 6 Airbus A320neo) covers 39 destinations throughout Greece, including public service operation routes (PSO), as well as international destinations (Larnaca, Brussels), effective from spring 2021. The company has brokered interline agreements with worldwide carriers such as KLM, Air France, Qatar Airways, Middle East Airlines, and Cyprus Airways. The connectivity it provides conduces to extending the tourism season to yeararound, contributing to the extroversion of the Greek economy.

Vasiliki Christidi, general manager, IORG Group

Vasiliki Christidi, general manager of IORG Group, presents the ambitious plans of the Greek airline company.

SKY express is the only airline that bought new aircrafts from Airbus in 2020. What drives the momentum of your expansion in this challenging and extremely hard on airlines period?

It is true that 2020 has been a challenging year for all, and no one can doubt the severe changes the pandemic brought in all aspects of life. The economic and business sectors, especially in the airline industry, have been dealt a terrible blow. Nevertheless, at SKY express we believe that in every crisis lies opportunity, and so we decided to regard the pandemic as a chance to grow and evolve. Thanks to the good and systematic work that has preceded in the previous years, together with the support that the financially healthy IOGR Group of Companies provides us, we were able to take a big and decisive step towards expanding our mostly privately-owned fleet, and consequently our flight operations. We are confident that it was the right moment for us to increase and upgrade our fleet, a step that clearly reflects our successes, our dynamic growth, and our promise for the future.

New planes, new routes, new challenges Your new airplane, the Airbus A320neo will fly the route Athens- Thessaloniki. This is a tough market and previous efforts to break into it (ie Ryanair) did not go as planned. How will SKY express make a difference?

At SKY express we excel in taking on new challenges and turning them into successes. Although challenging the Athens – Thessaloniki route may have been in the past for other companies, facts change and circumstances evolve. We are confident that SKY express will make the difference and break into this specific market thanks to the competitive fares we offer and the excellent services we provide. Our disruptive pricing policy and our superior customer experience will make the difference and, once again, this endeavor will prove to be yet another successful challenge.

Will you include international flights in your future flight schedule? What are your main goals going forward?

Seeing how rapidly our company has grown and our operations have expanded, we are already adding international destinations to our flight operations. On February 22nd, we officially started flying to Cyprus by launching the direct route Athens – Larnaca. SKY express will also be serving passengers to and from Belgium with the route Athens – Brussels that will soon be added to our flight operation. We are very proud of this new era of growth we are going through, and we are determined to leave nothing to chance, but rather do the exact opposite. We envisage this new era, with a sense of responsibility towards our loyal passengers, all the people who want to travel with the wings of SKY express, in addition to the people of our company; and, of course, we partake in bolstering the extroversion and the dynamics of our country, Greece, and its highly acclaimed tourist product. In this sense, it is only natural for us to take this next step, after thoroughly covering Greece with 34 destinations, to expand to international markets and thus, facilitate Greeks’ traveling abroad as well as foreign travelers who want to visit our country all-year round.

SKY express’ first international destination was Larnaca

A “personalized travel experience”

There are estimates that the pandemic crisis will change the way we travel. People will move away from mass tourism and will choose a more “personalized travel experience”. Do you share these estimates? Do they impact your long-term business planning?

This, of course, depends on how one would define the “personalized travel experience”. Every company has a different approach to this since there are many ways in which one can personalize the travel experience. We believe in offering our passengers the best experience when flying with us, and we are always working towards the completion of this goal, as we believe that our evolution and growth is an incessant and continuous process. On that note, SKY express already offers personalized services and fares for any traveler, including students, professionals, and families alike. This is a “personalized travel experience”, since we carefully tailor our services to the needs of each group individually and readjust our fares so that every traveler has many options to choose from, while always ensuring their convenience, comfort, and superior endto-end experience.

“Upcoming leader in aviation”

Analysts say that in the European airline industry we will see more mergers/ buyouts of airlines trying to deal with harsh competition. How can a small Greek company stand out?

SKY express has been distinguished and awarded as the fastest-growing airline of Greece repeatedly. Having increased our traffic quite substantially over the past 5 years, from 70.000 passengers in 2015, to 1,2 million in 2019, we believe we have earned this title for a reason. We do not regard ourselves as a “small Greek company”, but rather as a driving force and upcoming leader in the aviation landscape nationally and soon, on a European scale. The fact that we are the only airline to bid an order with Airbus in 2020, a year of back-to-back health and financial crises and social turmoil, by adding six brandnew A320neo aircraft to our fleet, proves our incessant growth and evergreen sustainability investment as a company, while highlighting our capabilities and our promise for the future.

Airlines face numerous challenges. Apart from the pandemic crisis and the increased cost of hygiene protocols, the companies are asked to become more eco-friendly. Will you be able to keep your low fares policy in this context?

SKY express has already taken steps towards becoming more eco-friendly and leaving a smaller footprint of carbondioxide emissions. Our decision to invest in the Airbus A320neo aircraft proves this direction, as well as mirrors our absolute intentions of reinforcing more environmentally friendly policies. On the other hand, SKY express will maintain its low-fare policy, along with multiple fare options for our travelers. We will not choose between a low-fare policy or an eco-friendly one, but rather we will stay ahead of the times by offering environmentally -friendly solutions, competitive fares and excellent services, all at once. “We learn from passengers’ complaints” We noticed in different reviews that your passengers complain about the services you provide (information, flight schedule accuracy, policy on rebooking and extra charges). In the Trip Advisor Popularity Ranking, you have just 2.5 out of 5 points. As we already mentioned earlier, SKY express is a company of incessant growth and development. We take into serious consideration any possible complaints there may be, we learn, and we grow from them. As we always strive for excellence, we believe that our improved services and competitive fares will be a decisive factor in the passengers’ renewed perception of SKY express and we are confident that any such reviews will soon be overturned.

Is there any basis to the complaints of your costumers? How do you plan on addressing such problems?

At SKY express we believe in validating every customer’s experience, good or bad. This shows that our passengers hold us to high standards because we are expected to offer impeccable services. Our Customer Service Department manages all such inquires, and we are confident that our people, who are specialized and hard-working professionals, handle every situation giving it the attention it requires. After all, there is not one single airline company, that does not have to face complaints from clients. It is an indisputable fact that our passenger traffic has skyrocketed over the past five years, hence this only showcases the loyalty of our existing passengers and the affinity of new ones who wish to fly with the wings of SKY express .

The interview is published in the March/April 2021 issue of Greek Business File, available here.