Case Studies: Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”

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Project Overview
Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos”
Project Type: Greenfield
Type of Project Financing: Public-Private Partnership (PPP)
Contract duration: 30 years (5 yrs construction - 25 yrs operation)
Budget: 2,2 billion euro
Project Time Line
1993: Date of Tender Call (Re-negotiation after the change of Government, which ran the tendering procedure between 1991 and 1993)
July 1995: Date Contract Approved (signed); the Airport Development Agreement (ADA) was signed by Greek State and private consortium led by HOCHTIEF Aktiengesellschaft
September 1996: Foundation stone ceremony
September 2000: Construction Completed
October 2000-February 2001:

Operational testing

Other important dates for the project:
27 March 2001: Opening ceremony
28 March 2011: First flight grounds


The Athens International Airport “Eleftherios Venizelos” (AIA)opened in March 2001 to replace the Athens (Hellenikon) International Airport. The airport is located between the towns of Markopoulo, Koropi, Spata and Loutsa in the Attika region, about 20 km to the east of central Athens, the country’s capital (30 km by road, due to local topography). The airport is named after Eleftherios Venizelos, the prominent Cretan political figure and Prime Minister of Greece, who made an outstanding contribution to the development of Greek aviation and the Hellenic Air Force in the 1930s.

The Athens International Airport is internationally considered a pioneer public-private partnership, being the first major greenfield airport constructed with the participation of the private sector.The project is widely acclaimed as a financial success. Indicatively, the Economist intelligence Unit in 1992 acknowledged it as “a Greek contract with a difference; the structure of the contract for the new airport could set a trend for other big projects in Europe”. It also represents the first successfully completed PPP structure for a European airport.

AIA is Greece’s largest airport and the 30th busiest airport in Europe in 2011 with 14,4 million passenger traffic. It has an annual throughput capacity of 21 million passengers, car parking facilities for 6,540 vehicles, as well as ancillary facilities (fuel depots., cargo handling and maintenance areas).The airport has two terminals: the Main Terminal, where Schengen and several non-Schengen flights are handled, and the Satellite Terminal for non-Schengen flights only, accessible by an underground foot-tunnel from the Main terminal. It has two runways, each of approximately 4 km length. It is also designed with the capacity to accommodate increase in air travel.

The airport marked the beginning of a new era for Greek air transport. AIA is a modern, functional and safe airport. Owing to its favourable geographical location, technological infrastructure and services, it has earned international recognition through several awards and the trust of air travellers. It forms one of the largest hubs of air travel in south-eastern Europe and constitutes a strong pole of financial and social development in the Attica basin.

The Contracting Authority (Public Party)

The Greek State represented by the Ministries of Economy, Transport and Communications is the contracting authority. The concession contract was ratified by Greek Law 2338/95.

The Concessionaire (Private Party)

Athens International Airport S.A. (AIA) is a privately managed company responsible for the construction and operation of the airport, owned by the Greek State holding 55% of shares. Theprivate sector partner comprises of three private shareholders under the leadership of HOCHTIEF AirPort GmbH, and collectively holds 45% of the shares, with Hochtief AirPort GmbH and Hochtief AirPort Capital owning 26.667% and 13.333% respectively, and 5% belonging to the Copelouzos Group. The Airport Company is not permitted to perform any operations outside this area. Also, all of its operations are expected to be related directly to the business of managing the airport, while ground accessibility to the airport is provided by the Greek state. The respective shares are the following:

  • Hellenic Republic Asset Development Fund – HRADF: 30%
  • AviAlliance GmbH (Hochtief AirPort GmbH): 26.667%
  • Greek State: 25%
  • AviAlliance Capital GmbH & Co. KGaA (Hochtief AirPort Capital GmbH & Co. KGaA): 13.333%
  • Copelouzos Dimitrios: 2%
  • Copelouzou Kiriaki: 1%
  • Copelouzos Christos: 1%
  • Copelouzou Eleni-Asimina: 1%

Other key subcontractors are Hochtief, ABB, and Krantz.

Sources of Financing

The cost for the development of the airport was financed mainly from bank loans - with the European Investment Bank being the major lender, while the remaining funds were provided through private shareholders equity and EU and Greek State grants. The project finance consisted of the following:

  • Loan by EIB: 1012 m € (46%)
  • Commercial banks: 308 m € (14%)
  • Airport development fund: 286 m € (13%)
  • European Union grants: 242 m € (11%)
  • Greek State capital share: 154 m € (7%)
  • Private investors capital share: 132 m € (6%)
  • Private investors loan: 66 m € (3%)


The airport is used for both passengers and freight transportation, as well as by other non-transportation users (i.e. passenger and cargo terminals, terminal retail and restaurants area).

Its main stakeholders include the airlines, ground handlers, fuel companies, concessionaires, Greek public services (e.g. HCAA, police, customs, Greek post), and freight and transport companies.

Key Purpose for PPP Model Selection

Given the limited access to financial markets for the size of investment,the Greek State decided to opt for a concession type model. The public sector would receive Grant of Rights Fee, dividends and taxes on a purely monetary base, while the private sector using technology and innovation would provide for better public services through improved operational efficiency, enhancing at the same time the tourismservices of Athens and Greece.

Project Timing

The Hellenikon airport (old Athens international airport) had by far exceeded its operational capacity with no possibility of extension, as it was situated within the greater Athens urban agglomeration. In 2000, it was ranked in one of the lowest positions on a global scale, while there was need for a highly competitive airport that would boost Greek tourism significantly and the economy in general.

Project Locality and Market Geography

The AIA is built in an outer-urban region, because of the land required for the development of a greenfield airport and the need for proximity to the country’s capital, Athens.It is accessed by a modern a motorway,suburban rail and metro link, as well as by the extended bus transit network.

Procurement & Contractual Structure

After a decade of slow development, the project was revived in 1991, when the Greek government invited tenders on a B.O.T. ("build - operate - transfer") contract base, whereby a private company designs and builds a facility and subsequently operates it for a contractually stipulated period of time. From the two bidders that were short-listed, the private consortium led by HOCHTIEF Aktiengesellschaft was initially selected.


Following a re-negotiation after a change in Government that ran the tendering procedure between 1991 and 1993, the selection of the private consortium led by HOCHTIEF Aktiengesellschaft was finally confirmed and the contract was signed in 1995.

Contract Structure

The concession contract between HochtiefAktiengesellschaftand the Greek State including design, construction, financing and operation was ratified as a Law by the Greek Parliament (law 2338/1995).The Airport Development Agreement (ADA)assigned the management to the private panter.In accordance with the contract, the private partner designs, builds, operates (providing services to both aeronautical and non-aeronautical business activities) and maintains the airport for the concession period, after which the airport is to be transferred, free of charge, to the Greek State. The ownership of the airport remains with the Greek State. The contract included guarantees, but no renegotiation clauses.

Risk Allocation

According to the concession contract,key risks (design, maintenance, exploitation and commercial risk) are allocated to the Private party.

Figure 2: Risk allocation


Since its inauguration, the airport has demonstrated successful operation and maintenance of the infrastructure. In 2009, regardless of the unfavourable macroeconomic conditions in Greece and elsewhere in the world,AIA was one of the few exceptions, reporting satisfactory end-of-year traffic with minimal losses, high profits and liquidity, as well as significant contribution to the national, regional and local economy. It has recorded sustainable revenue evolution and healthy cash position and profitability.

AIA also develops its extensive real estate assets, conducting large-scale commercial activities and exporting the company's pioneering know-how in the IT sector. Approximately 40% of the company's turnover and a significant share of its profits come from non-aeronautical activities.

Aeronautical and non-aeronautical revenues are highly related to economic conditions. In contrast to the negative national economic trends, particularly on outbound Greek travel demand, AIA remains a positive contributor of financial and non-financial value to its stakeholders, its shareholders and the Greek society and economy.In the past years, the economic crisis had reduced both streams of revenue, but with counter measures (cost control and promotions/incentives) AIA managed to maintain a healthy financial condition.The ADA allowsAIA to set prices and tariffs in order to fully recover aeronautical expenses with aeronautical revenues (regulated). For the non-aeronautical (non-regulated)activities,AIA follows market trends and conditions. However, management has observed that demand elasticity is highly related to national and international income (GDP) and to a lesser extent to pricing schemes.

A series of key developments during 2014, such as the dynamic expansion of Homebase carriers’ networks, the entry of new Low Cost Carriers, the regained popularity of the city of Athens as tourism destination and the strong recovery of the domestic market, gave substantial boost to the airport’s traffic evolution. Accordingly, the airport’s passenger traffic reached 15.2 million, exceeding prior-year levels by 2.7 million passengers, corresponding to a significant increase of 21.2%, with both domestic and international traffic achieving similar levels of growth (+22.5% and +20.5%, respectively). In addition, during the first four months of 2015, the airport’s traffic reached 4.4 million passengers, exceeding prior-year levels by 24.2%, with both domestic and international passenger traffic demonstrating high increase (of +30.5% and +20.7%, respectively).

Project Outcomes

AIA represents the first successfully completed PPP structure for a European airport.AIA has received political support during its critical development phase. In its 14 years of operation, it has received 50 international awards and distinctions in all aspects of airport business and sustained adequate profitability even under harsh economic conditions.Today, it constitutes one of the major gateways to South-Eastern Europe and forms a unique business entity of economic and social development in the Attica region.

The AIA and its people have a strong drive for success, providing high standard infrastructure and services in both aeronautical and non-aeronautical activities.A further basis for this airport's success is real estate development within its own grounds. In2007, the airport's first business park was completed, while in January 2009, a new 50,000 m2 convention and trade fair centre built on another site opened to business.

The only failure factors that could be considered for the project are that it is highly dependent on exogenous factors, such as macro-economic conditions both on national and international level, the attractiveness of Greece and Athens as destinations, theneighbouring countries/cities competition and that it has not been very active as a business developer. Also, there have been articles in the press regarding the pricing policy of the airport and concerns regarding its effect on tourism,albeit actual results have shown that traffic levels are not mainly driven by the pricing policy.

Economic Impact

Over the years of its operation, an “airport business community” has gradually developed. In 2013, this “community” included15 million passengers, 4.9 million visitors, 300 Companies, 5,000 Suppliers and 15,000 Employees. To this end, the Athens International Airport substantially contributes to the socioeconomic growth of the country in terms of economic value creation (annual added value at national level: €5.1billion or 2.63% of the Greek GDP in 2013) from direct, indirect, induced and incremental impacts.

Social impact

The operation of the airport yields 99,987 jobs at a national level. This socio-economic impact significantly exceeds the relevant benchmarks of other major European airports.

Environmental impact

AIA has managed to reduce its carbon footprint by 25% between 2005 and 2013 following the implementation of a series of energy-saving measures focusing mainly on reducing consumption of electricity, natural gas and vehicle fuel. Further to these efforts, AIA has constructed and operated since 2011 a 8.05 MWp Photovoltaic Park, producing green electricity and avoiding emissions of nearly 12,000 tonnes of CO2 per year with an expected lifecycle of more than 20 years. At the time of the Park’s inauguration, it was the second largest in Greece and the largest in an airport worldwide.

AIA’s Airport Carbon Accreditation was upgraded in early 2014 to Level 3 (Optimisation), following the expansion of its carbon footprint, to include indirect emission sources and its work of engaging other members of the airport community in the fight against climate change.

In 2013, the Noise Monitoring System (NOMOS) software, which correlates noise levels with aircraft movements through its connection to the radar, wasupgraded to the latest available version. Also, in cooperation with theHellenic Civil Aviation Authority (HCAA), a new procedure was implemented to further reduce noise levels in residentialareas northeast of the airport during departures from the eastern runway.


The initial version of this wiki page has been produced within the framework of the BENEFIT project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No 635973

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